University of Minnesota researchers think they have found a way to make the production of tires and other rubber-based products more environmentally sustainable.
“This research could have a major impact on the multi-billion dollar automobile tires industry”
– Paul Dauenhauer, U of M Associate Professor and lead researcher
Tire companies have been making biomass-derived isoprene a major initiative over the last decade. Most of that effort was in the development of a fermentation technology, which is very similar to ethanol production.
“The first step of the new process is microbial fermentation of sugars, such as glucose, derived from biomass to an intermediate, called itaconic acid. In the second step, itaconic acid is reacted with hydrogen to a chemical called methyl-THF (tetrahydrofuran). This step was optimized when the research team identified a unique metal-metal combination that served as a highly efficient catalyst.”
Not only are the technical details impressive, but by re-purposing materials in the process, the center has the ability to remove the equivalent of 5 tons of tires from landfills and waterways each and every day!