Goodyear and Department of Defense eye the unassuming dandelion as domestic source of rubber

April 11, 2022 |

In Ohio, a consortium including tire giant Goodyear and the US Air Force is working to develop a domestic source of natural rubber from dandelions. 

Natural rubber has been classified as a strategic raw material that serves as a critical ingredient in military, aircraft and truck tires. More than 90% of the world’s natural rubber is made from latex derived from rubber trees and is primarily sourced from tropical locations outside of the US.

The multi-year, multi-million-dollar program is supported by the US Department of Defense, the Air Force Research Lab and BioMADE—a DoD-sponsored Manufacturing Innovation Institute formed to promote biobased industries. It will build on research that analyzed more than 2,500 species of plants but found only a few with properties suitable for use in tires. Ohio’s Farmed Materials, also part of the consortium, has shown in pilot programs that Taraxacum kok-saghyz, a species of dandelion known as TK, is a valuable alternative to natural rubber trees, yielding strong harvests that justify further planting and funding to develop. 

“Global demand for natural rubber continues to grow, and it remains a key raw material for the tire industry,” says 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.

The collaboration will accelerate commercialization of TK, beginning in the spring of 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. 

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Category: Chemicals & Materials

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