MINNEAPOLIS (Feb. 17, 2017) — Obtaining isoprene from sustainable sources has long been a goal for tire manufacturers.
Now, a team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota claims it has accomplished that.
According to the university, the researchers have invented a technology to produce isoprene from trees, grasses and corn.
Tires produced using isoprene from biomass would be identical to existing tires, with the same chemical composition, color and performance, the university said.
The study describing the research that led to this breakthrough has been published in ACS Catalysis, the American Chemical Society's journal on chemical and catalysis sciences, according to the university.
Paul Dauenhauer, an associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Minnesota, led the project with the help of researchers from the Center for Sustainable Polymers, a group funded by the National Science Foundation and headquartered at the university.
Traditionally, isoprene is produced by "cracking," a process of breaking apart petroleum molecules in a method similar to producing gasoline, according to the university.
The isoprene is separated out of hundreds of products and purified, the university said. In the final step, the isoprene reacts with itself into long chains to make a solid polymer that is the major component of tires, it said.