Continental develops tires from rubber, rice husks and plastic bottles

(Motor Authority) – Continental is investigating garbage heaps and recycling bins to find sustainable materials for future tires.

The company hopes to have all of its tires made entirely from sustainable materials by 2050 at the latest, from 15% today to 20% made from renewable or recycled materials. In a press release, Continental explained how it is looking at agricultural waste such as rice husks and dandelions, as well as recycled plastic bottles, to achieve this goal.

According to Continental, a car tire can be made from as many as 100 different materials, and one of the most important is natural rubber, which the company says accounts for 10 to 40 percent of the weight of a modern tire.

Sustainable materials in Continental tires

Tire makers are looking for alternative sources of natural rubber that can be grown more sustainably on an industrial scale, as Bridgestone has done by using a desert shrub called guayule in some racing tires. Continental strives to use specially bred dandelions as a source of natural rubber.

Continental is also developing silica tire fillers made from the ash of rice husks, a waste material that cannot be used for food or animal feed, the company noted. The process of processing it into silica is also more energy-efficient than conventional production processes, claims Continental.

Other tire fillers are currently made from crude oil, but Continental believes that vegetable oils from rapeseed and resins from the residues of paper and wood processing could serve as substitutes. Like rice husks, these are waste materials that have no other practical use, the company said.

Pyrolysis process to recover valuable materials from Continental tires

Soot is another important ingredient, and in this case Continental wants to recycle old tires to recover the material. It recently signed an agreement with Pyrum Innovations to use their pyrolysis process, which uses high heat to shred old tires to extract usable material. Continental also uses “mechanical processing” to separate other materials such as rubber, steel and textiles from used tires.

Another recycled material Continental wants to use is PET plastic from beverage bottles, which can be processed into polyester yarn for tire casings. According to Continental, between nine and 15 bottles fit into each tire, depending on tire size.

Other tire manufacturers are also trying to make their products more environmentally friendly. Goodyear showed a prototype tire made from 90% sustainable materials in January and plans to start making tires with 70% sustainable materials this year. Michelin and Hyundai have also partnered on sustainable materials for future EV tires. Continental develops tires from rubber, rice husks and plastic bottles

Dais Johnston

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