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Dandelion rubber

By Gerald Ondrey |

Last month saw the start of a five-year joint research project to extract rubber from dandelion plants to make tires. In collaboration with Continental AG (Hannover, Germany; www.continental-tires.com), the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME; Aachen, Germany; www.fraunhofer.de), will build a pilot plant capable of producing natural rubber by the ton in Munster, Germany. In addition, the researchers will cultivate several hectares of a dandelion variety that is particularly rich in rubber. The first prototype tires made with blends from dandelion rubber are scheduled to be tested on public roads over the next few years. IME has been focusing on the Russian variety of dandelion because it is the only type that has large quantities of rubber within its white latex sap. Through modern cultivation methods and optimization of systems technology, IME researchers have succeeded in manufacturing high-grade natural rubber from dandelions in the laboratory (Chem. Eng., October 2009, p. 14; www.chemengonline.com/chementator/5151.html). The dandelion has three main advantages over conventional rubber trees: its vegetation period is only one year (not several); it can be harvested immediately, and further optimized…
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