Cooper Tire and partners review guayule polymer project

guayuleCOOPER Tire & Rubber Company, Yulex Corporation, Arizona State University (ASU), and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), partners for the guayule polymer development for tyres project met recently at the Cooper Tire & Vehicle Test Centre located near San Antonio to review initial progress on their US$6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The BRDI is a joint effort between the USDA and the DOE to promote the development and analysis of feed stocks, biofuels and biobased products. The consortium partners received the four-year BRDI grant in June 2012. The grant focuses on research efforts aimed at developing enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of guayule solid rubber as a biomaterial for tyre applications, as well as evaluating the plant’s residual biomass for biofuel applications.

Cooper Tire leads the overall grant programme along with developing all related tyre technology. Yulex takes on developing commercial processes to produce guayule natural rubber for the tyre industry. ARS leads the genomic and agronomic development of guayule while ASU evaluates the sustainability impact these biomaterial and bioenergy industries have on the American Southwest, where guayule is cultivated.

The consortium partner meeting highlighted significant progress being made in several areas, including guayule plant genome sequencing needed for future breeding tools, irrigation studies to maximise rubber content in the plant, and completing laboratory testing to develop a guayule tyre-grade polymer specification for future commercialisation.

Guayule is an industrial crop and a natural source of rubber that can replace petroleum-based synthetics and does not compete against food or fiber crops. Through agronomic development, materials science, and sustainable biorefinery extraction processes, 100% of the guayule plant can be used to produce consumer, industrial, medical and energy products, including tyres and advanced biofuels.