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A blossoming future for tyre material?

The Netherlands – A promising solution to resource scarcity can be found in our own gardens, according to a specialist in molecular genetics R&D. Dutch company KeyGene is aiming to use the latex found in dandelion roots to create an all-new material for tyre production.

With global demand for rubber set to outstrip current supply by 20% as of the year 2020, this common weed has huge potential as a sustainable asset and is possibly worth US$ 100 billion a year as a ‘renewable alternative’, KeyGene asserts. Owing to the fact that the dandelion’s roots are too small to be viable for commercial production, the biotech firm plans to cross a Russian and a common variety of the plant to yield a hybrid with ‘optimised levels of latex’.

With the support of international tyre manufacturer Apollo Vredestein and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, KeyGene has already produced a prototype tyre. The team confirms that results for the rubber substitute are very promising and expects weed-based tyres to be available on the market as early as five years from now.

According to project scientist Hans Mooibroek, it is proving difficult for Europe to get its hands on enough rubber for tyre production owing to rapidly growing demand in China and India. At the same time, trees in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are quite susceptible to diseases, rendering the market unstable.

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