Goodyear Wants to Make Tires From Dandelions - Modern Farmer

Goodyear Wants to Make Tires From Dandelions

The company is betting on the pesky weed as a reliable source of domestic rubber.

A new source of domestic rubber?
Photography by Flower_Garden, Shutterstock.

Dandelions are much more than just pesky weeds. They lend their greens to salads and can be transformed into wines and other botanical beverages

Now, the yellow-flowered plant has become the key ingredient in a new venture: rubber tires. 

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company announced a new initiative to accelerate the use of natural rubber made from dandelions instead of relying on latex made from rubber trees—sourced primarily from tropical ecosystems—that comprises 90 percent of the current natural rubber market.

The species of dandelions, known as Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TK for short), can grow in temperate climates within the US. The roots of this type of dandelion contain natural rubber latex. And unlike the seven-year turnaround time a rubber tree requires to produce the latex needed to make rubber, these dandelions can be harvested in just six months. 

RELATED: A Botanist-Bartender’s Ode to the Dandelion

For the multi-year and multi-million-dollar program, Goodyear has partnered with the US Department of Defense, the Air Force Research Lab and BioMADE. The group will work with Farmed Materials—an Ohio-based company that “develops and commercializes agriculturally derived, sustainable, high-performance polymers”—to cultivate a domestic source of rubber made from American-grown dandelions. 

As the supply of natural rubber—a substance so important globally that it’s classified as a “critical raw material,” according to BBC—shows signs of running low due to factors such as  climate change, the demand is growing. 

Goodyear hopes to address that problem with this new initiative. “Global demand for natural rubber continues to grow, and it remains a key raw material for the tire industry,” Chris Helsel, senior vice president of global operations and chief technology officer for Goodyear, said in a press release. “This is a critical time to develop a domestic source of natural rubber, which may help mitigate future supply chain challenges.”

According to the release, initial yields of the dandelions grown as part of a pilot program conducted by Farmed Materials were strong. The new partnership will provide the funding needed for further plantings. 

Beginning this spring, the program will fund the planting and harvesting of TK dandelions in Ohio. The resulting rubber will first be used for military aircraft tires. It will be put through “rigorous” testing at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. If all goes well, according to Goodyear, the company’s goal is to use the dandelion-based rubber in all its tires.  

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christopher ross
1 year ago

This idea goes back at least to WWII and probably before. A number of species in the US have been looked at, at least on “bench” scale and found promising. One that does very well in the arid southwest [whether you want it to or not] is the appropriately named gumweed –Grindelia squarrosa – and probably others in that genus. I would be curious to see the result of a calculation that includes the number of dandelions needed for one tire, times the number of tires needed per year, divided by the number of dandelions that can be grown on… Read more »

B kuef
1 year ago

It’s my understanding Russia tried this towards the end of the Second World War for some of their tires on half tracks