POTSDAM, Germany — Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Polymer Research in Germany have developed a polyisoprene synthetic rubber they claim can exceed the treadwear performance of natural rubber in truck tires.
The discovery, dubbed "BISYKA," achieves 30- to 50-percent less abrasion than natural rubber, Fraunhofer Institutes said, making it ideal for use in truck tire treads, for which SR up to now has been unsuitable.
"The treads of (truck) tires are manufactured primarily from natural rubber ... and to date has demonstrated the best abrasion characteristics," the research institute said.
However, the need to find alternative rubber sources has been increasing as the supply security of NR is doubtful, due to fungi that have decimated the Brazilian rubber industry and could, at some point, appear in Southeast Asia, where the vast majority of the world's NR is cultivated.
Researchers at Fraunhofer Institutes began development of BISYKA — named for the German abbreviation for biometric synthetic rubber — a few years ago by studying dandelion rubber,
"Like the rubber from rubber trees, 95 percent of dandelion rubber consists of polyisoprene," the institute said. Because dandelions generate a yield in three months compared with seven years for Hevea trees, it was ideal for research, it said.
"After they had identified the organic components that were important to abrasion behavior, the researchers at Fraunhofer IAP synthesized the BISYKA rubber out of functionalized polyisoprene with high microstructural purity and the respective biomolecules," Fraunhofer said.
Fraunhofer scientists investigated the characteristics of BISYKA and used new kinds of silica to optimize performance, the institute said.
In those tests, tires with BISKYA treads were compared with tires with conventional natural rubber treads. Whereas the NR tires at the end of testing had lost 850 grams of weight and 0.94 millimeters of tread, the BISYKA tires lost only 600 grams of weight and 0.47 millimeters of tread, it said.
As the next step, Fraunhofer plans to optimize the BISYKA rubber further, concentrating on the composition and proportion of the organic components, according to Ulrich Wendler, leader of the project at the Fraunhofer Pilot Plant Center for Polymer Synthesis and Processing PAZ in Schkopau, Germany.
"The synthetic rubber can be produced on an industrial scale, using existing plants and equipment," Mr. Wendler said. "This means that the synthetic rubber offers an excellent alternative to natural rubber — including the domain of high-performance truck tires."
The researchers are scheduled to present their findings April 4 at the annual conference of the German Rubber Society, East.