Sumitomo establishes breakthrough technique in tyre-rubber analysis

Japanese tyre maker Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI) has developed new observation technology for tyre-rubber materials analysis, in partnership with Ibaraki University in Japan. Using a special particle beam microscope, SRI claims it has succeeded in observing both ‘coarse and fine’ cross-linked areas of rubber “in vivid detail for the first time” – in a “groundbreaking technique”the microscope allows selective observation of sulphur cross-links in a nanometre scale.

While conventional observation techniques provide image data that shows an inextricable mixture of sulphur and other reinforcing agents, the new technique generates “clear images” that highlights specific compound components, such as silica cross-links or other reinforcing agents, in specific colours.

SRI said the process creates “enormous potential” for future applications in materials development: “By allowing us to evaluate the very structures of tyres themselves, this image data can be used to come up with future prototypes that will provide superior performance.”