AKRON, Ohio — The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and BioMADE to develop a new source of natural rubber from a dandelion.
If successful, the multi-million dollar program could one day mean your airplane’s tires will be made from plants.
Rubber is a critical ingredient in aircraft tires, according to Goodyear officials.
Today, more than 90% of the world’s natural rubber is made from latex derived from rubber trees. It is primarily sourced from tropical locations outside of the U.S.
The new program will work with Ohio-based Farmed materials, building on research that analyzed more than 2,500 species of plants but found only a few with properties suitable for use in tires. One of those, taraxacum kok-saghyz, a species of dandelion known as TK, has proven to be a valuable alternative to natural rubber trees, Goodyear officials said.
“Global demand for natural rubber continues to grow, and it remains a key raw material for the tire industry,” said Chris Helsel, senior vice president Global Operations and Chief Technology Officer for Goodyear. “This is a critical time to develop a domestic source of natural rubber, which may help mitigate future supply chain challenges.”
While rubber trees typically take seven years to produce the latex needed for rubber production, dandelions can be harvested every six months. TK dandelions are also resilient and can grow in more temperate climates, such as Ohio, company officials said.
The new collaboration kicks off in spring 2022 with the planting and harvesting of TK seeds in Ohio. The natural rubber produced will be used in the production of military aircraft tires that will be built and tested under “rigorous applications” by Goodyear in cooperation with the AFRL at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, Goodyear officials note.
If additional testing provides promising results, Goodyear sees potential for the application of TK rubber to be used in all tire applications.