Bridgestone Americas Inc. is part of a public-private consortium that has been awarded a five-year, $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a domestic source of natural rubber from guayule.
Bridgestone, along with researchers from the University of Arizona, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, New Mexico State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, received this grant as part of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Coordinated Agricultural Project Program. The five-year grant period covers September 2017 to August 2022.
The tire maker has a long history with guayule research and development dating back to the USDA and Department of Defense’s efforts in the early 1980s. In 2012, Bridgestone invested in its Biorubber Process Research Center in Mesa, Arizona, and a 300-acre research facility for plant breeding and agronomy in Eloy, Arizona, as well as recruited grower participation for feedstock production.
Guayule is a drought and heat-tolerant crop that produces natural rubber almost identical to natural rubber harvested from hevea rubber trees in Southeast Asia, making it a valuable source for tire-grade rubber in commercial applications.
“We are extremely excited to work with these universities and the USDA as we reinforce our efforts to develop a new, sustainable, domestic source of natural rubber using guayule,” says Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer for Bridgestone. “This research aligns with our corporate commitment to helping ensure a healthy environment for current and future generations.”
The goal of the grant is to scale up to profitable production, which will require feedstock improvements and expansion of cultivation; feedstock production in a sustainable manner; understanding of how processing guayule to extract natural rubber and economically valuable co-products is affected by variable feedstock quality; and enhancement of transportation, techno-economic and sustainability models to provide a clear path to commercialization.
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