Ford taps on dandelions for rubber

dandelionsDANDELIONS may be considered as weeds but Ford Motor and Ohio State University (OSU) are looking at the plant in a new way by researching its potential use as a sustainable resource for rubber.

A milky-white substance that seeps from dandelion roots is used to produce the sustainable rubber. The substance could potentially find its way into plastic parts in Ford vehicles as an impact strength modifier for cup holders, floor mats and interior trim.

The possible use of dandelion root as a rubber substitute is an example of Ford’s investment in sustainable materials for its vehicles, including soy foam seat cushions, wheat straw-filled plastic for interior trim, recycled cotton from denim jeans as a sound-dampening material, recycled resins for under body systems and recycled yarns on seat covers.

Not all dandelions can be used as a sustainable resource. Ford intends to put dandelion weeds to good use
for rubber and the researchers are particularly honing in on the Russian dandelion, Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS), which is being grown at OSU’s Agricultural Research and Development Centre.

Before the dandelion-derived rubber can be put to use, Ford researchers will assess the initial quality of the material to evaluate how it will perform in a variety of plastics that are used in vehicles and to ensure it meets its tough durability standards.

Besides the dandelion, the team is also looking into the use of guayule (a shrub grown in Southwest US) as a natural rubber, which is provided by OSU and can also be grown domestically. (PRA)