Those of us who do battle with dandelions in our gardens every year will be pleased to know that the prolific weed can be used to create a sustainable natural rubber.
Researchers at Fraunhofer in Germany have developed a new process for large-scale production of high quality rubber using Russian dandelions. Rubber is used in over 40,000 everyday products including many used by the construction industry.
The Hevea brasilineas, a tree that grows in subtropical climates, is the only source of commercially available natural rubber. Its vulnerability to fungal infections has pushed up prices, whilst increasing demand has led producers in South East Asia to turn rainforest into agricultural land. Diversifying the supply of natural rubber therefore makes economic and environmental sense. So researchers at Fraunhofer IME in Munster looked to the humble dandelion.
“The plant is extremely resilient, able to grow in moderate climates and even in soil that is not or just barely suited for the cultivation of food and feed crops,” explains Christian Schulze Gronover. “Dandelions also have the advantage of growing anually. The natural rubber tree takes between seven and ten years to deliver the first harvest.”
Tyres made of dandelion rubber have already been tested by tyre manufacturer Continental and have demonstrated similar performance characteristics to conventional rubber tyres.
Find out more on the Fraunhofer website.
Image © Dirk Mahler/Fraunhofer