New method will make rubber out of dandelions for less money than current methods

August 7th, 2008 - 3:08 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, August 7 (ANI): Scientists are currently designing a processing plant that will turn sticky white dandelion root sap into quality rubber for less money than current methods, thus revolutionizing the rubber industry.

According to a report in Discovery News, the team of scientists that designed the processing plant is from the Ohio State University and the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC).

No matter how much chemistry we”ve applied, we still haven”t been able to find an artificial substitute for natural rubber, said Dr William Ravlin, a researcher involved in the project.

Were still harvesting (rubber) the same way they did 1000 years ago; by cutting into the tree and letting the sap drip into containers. Its not a very efficient system, he added.

Efficiency, according to the Ohio scientists, would be farmers in air-conditioned tractors harvesting acres of yellow dandelions with the same machines used to pull tulip bulbs.

The dandelions the researchers will use arent the ones growing on lawns, which go by the species name Taraxacum officinale.

Instead, the Ohio scientists will use the American dandelions Uzbekistani cousin, Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS), commonly called Russian dandelion. The two plants look nearly identical, except that TKS has slightly narrower leaves with different margins.

Between 10% and 20% of TKSs carrot-like root is rubber-ready. And thats without modifying them with biotechnology or breeding, said Ravlin.

Researchers from Oregon State University, working in collaboration with the Ohio scientists, are developing different varieties of seeds, some of which could increase yields.

The exact details concerning growing and harvesting the plants, such as how many centimetres apart and when they should be planted, are still being worked out, but the researchers expect that within a few years, the processing plant in Ohio could produce about 20 million tonnes of rubber annually.

By 2015, they hope to triple that amount, to more than 60 million tonnes, most of which will be used for research purposes.

In initial tests, the dandelion rubber is of equal quality as traditional rubber derived from the Brazilian rubber tree.

Some of the dandelion rubber will eventually go to Bridgestone, a leading tyre manufacturer.

I think this has some real potential, said Jason Poulton, manager of Polymer Development at Bridgestone.

It would be useful for tyre producers to have a safe and steady supply of natural rubber that would insulate us from the price increases of the last five to seven years, he added. (ANI)

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