Crain News Service report
AACHEN, Germany (Oct. 22, 2013) — Continental A.G. and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology in Aachen are collaborating on a joint venture to produce industrial rubber made from dandelions.
The entities have a high-grade rubber production Fraunhofer Institute facility in Munster, Germany, that can produce high-grade natural rubber by the ton.
Nikolai Setzer, responsible for the tire division within Continental's executive board, said production of rubber from dandelion roots is far less weather-dependent than production from rubber trees.
"The new system is so undemanding in terms of agricultural requirements that it opens up new potential—particularly currently uncultivated land," he said. "By growing the crops much closer to our production sites, we would also be able to significantly reduce the burden on the environment and our logistics outlay."
Conti said the first test tires featuring rubber compounds made from dandelion rubber are set to be tested on public roads in the coming years.
"Thanks to DNA marker technology, we now know which gene is responsible for which molecular property," said Dirk Prufer, project manager professor. "This enables us to grow particularly high-yield plants much more efficiently.
"…Scientists were able to prove that the rubber produced from the dandelion plants they had grown themselves not only offers the same quality as its counterpart from the rubber tree, but that this new variant is actually more robust and offers a higher yield."
Boris Mergell, head of material and process development for tires at Continental, said if rubber can be harvested successfully from dandelions that offer the same properties as conventional rubber, "we will be able to put ourselves in a position where we are much less dependent on the annual harvest situation in the subtropical growing regions."