25 June 2012 00:00 [Source: ICB]
The global tire industry seeks alternatives to petroleum-based synthetic rubber raw materials using biotechnology
The two companies are developing isoprene - a key chemical intermediate for synthetic rubber manufacture - using biomass for feedstock. Ajinomoto said the firms have been jointly conducting research since June 2011.
Green material sought for tires
"Rubber demand has been rising annually in tandem with automobile ownership worldwide, but it is difficult to raise production of natural rubber," said Ajinomoto.
"Petroleum-based isoprene can partially replace natural rubber, but it is constrained in its production capacity. Increasing rubber supply is the challenge facing the tire and rubber industry," the firm said.
VARIETY IS THE KEY
Bridgestone said it has been searching for ways to procure raw materials from renewable resources and is promoting a variety of initiatives to achieve its goal of using 100% sustainable materials by 2050.
Ajinomoto and Bridgestone will decide on the potential for commercialization in 2013.
Other tire companies working on bio-based isoprene include US-based Goodyear in partnership with US-based DuPont Industrial Biosciences, and France-based Michelin in partnership with US renewable chemical firm Amyris.
Goodyear stated in March that its four-year collaboration with US industrial biotechnology firm Genencor, which was acquired by DuPont in 2011 as part of its acquisition of Denmark-based Danisco, has already demonstrated proof of the technology through the production of a prototype tire made with its BioIsoprene monomer.
Goodyear said additional investments are expected to establish pilot operations and manufacturing infrastructure.
Amyris said its technology, which is used to produce a 15-carbon molecule called farnesene, can also convert sugars into isoprene. Amyris and Michelin will both contribute funding and technical resources to develop bio-isoprene.
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