Researchers at Ford and The Ohio State University are currently looking at dandelions as a sustainable resource for rubber.
"We're always looking for new sustainable materials to use in our vehicles that have a smaller carbon footprint to produce and can be grown locally," said Angela Harris, Ford research engineer. "Synthetic rubber is not a sustainable resource, so we want to minimise its use in our vehicles when possible. Dandelions have the potential to serve as a great natural alternative to synthetic rubber in our products."
Only some species of dandelions can be used as a sustainable resource for rubber, and the species for this project is named the Russian dandelion Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS). It is being grown at The Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). A substance that seeps from the roots of the species can be used to create the rubber.
"Managing weed problems is essential to developing TKS as a commercially viable domestic source of natural rubber," said Bill Ravlin, associate director of OARDC.
The substance may be able to be used as a plastics modifier, which could help to improve the strength of plastics. The material could then be used for items such as cupholders, floor mats and interior trim.
"It's strange to see weeds being grown in perfectly manicured rows in a greenhouse, but these dandelions could be the next sustainable material in our vehicles," said Harris.
Ford Researchers will need to assess the dandelion-based rubber to ensure it meets durability standards before it can be used.
The team is also researching the use of a US shrub named guayule as a source of natural rubber.
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