Automobile owners around the world may some day soon be driving on tires that are partly made out of trees – which could cost less, perform better and save on fuel and energy.
Wood science researchers at Oregon State University have made some surprising findings about the potential of microcrystalline cellulose – a product that can be made easily from almost any type of plant fibers – to partially replace silica as a reinforcing filler in the manufacture of rubber tires.
A new study suggests that this approach might decrease the energy required to produce the tire, reduce costs, and better resist heat buildup. Early tests indicate that such products would have comparable traction on cold or wet pavement, be just as strong, and provide even higher fuel efficiency than traditional tires in hot weather.
“We were surprised at how favorable the results were for the use of this material,” said Kaichang Li, an associate professor of wood science and engineering in the OSU College of Forestry, who conducted this research with graduate student Wen Bai.
“This could lead to a new generation of automotive tire technology, one of the first fundamental changes to come around in a long time,” Li said.
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