Bridgestone Corporation (BSJ) has announced the Bridgestone Group’s plans for an extensive research project in the United States dedicated to developing Guayule as a commercially viable, renewable source of high-quality natural rubber and as an alternative to the Hevea tree.
Guayule (pronounced Why-u-lee) is a perennial shrub native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico and it produces natural rubber in its bark and roots, which has almost identical qualities to the natural rubber harvested from Hevea trees, which is currently the primary source for the natural rubber used in tyres.
This project is being conducted by Bridgestone Americas Tyre Operations (BATO) in collaboration with BSJ.
“This is such an exciting and innovative project. It will not only help our companies meet the strong, anticipated growth in demand for natural rubber, but also constitutes a potential breakthrough for the rubber industry,” said Bill Niaura, Director of New Business Development for Bridgestone Americas, Inc. (BSAM).
“This project demonstrates our commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability through its potential to develop a renewable resource for natural rubber that can be grown, harvested and processed closer to market.”
The Bridgestone Group will leverage the knowledge and experience it gained through its participation in a Guayule research project with the US Department of Agriculture from 1988 to 1991, which focused on extracting rubber for tyres from the biomass of Guayule, in this new project.
The successful commercial development of Guayule will diversify the source of natural rubber for the tyre and rubber industry and reduce today’s heavy reliance on “Hevea Brasiliensis,” which has a limited growing area restricted to tropical climates close to the equator. By contrast, Guayule is native to desert climates with a huge potential growing area.
BATO expects to finalise a location, establish the research farm and begin construction on the process research centre later this year, with the facility expected to be fully operational in 2014. Trial rubber production should start in 2015.