Bridgestone Makes Tires out of Arizona Shrub
Bridgestone Corp. says it has successfully built passenger tires with 100% of its natural rubber-containing components derived from guayule, a desert shrub that grows in arid regions such as the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. The tires were built at the Bridgestone Technical Center in Japan and made from guayule cultivated at the company's Biorubber Process Research Center (BPRC) in Mesa, Ariz.
The tires produced at the technical center follow others the company says it made in Rome, Italy earlier this summer. In those tire builds, all of the tire’s major natural rubber components — including the tread, sidewall and bead filler — were replaced with natural rubber extracted from guayule grown and harvested by Bridgestone.
Guayule is becoming a popular test ingredient for tire companies. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. expects to build a prototype tire from the shrub rubber in 2017, and held what it bills as the first ride-and-drive on guayule tires.
Tire demand is expected to increase in conjunction with global population growth and the advancement of motorization in developing nations. Today, approximately 90% of all natural rubber is harvested from the Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree, which is primarily grown in tropical regions of Southeast Asia. Bridgestone is continuing to invest in and advance research and development in search of new and more sustainable sources of natural rubber to alleviate the overconcentration of natural rubber production in certain regions.
Natural rubber is the primary raw material used to produce tires worldwide, and it’s consumed in large quantities. Bridgestone’s future research projects will focus on optimizing the natural rubber content in each guayule shrub, as well as evaluating applications in a wider range of tire types and rubber compounds.
Guayule grows in the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico, and the natural rubber made from guayule is a plant-derived biomaterial similar to the natural rubber harvested from the Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree. As guayule grows in arid regions, as opposed to the tropical regions where the Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree is found, the further development of guayule rubber is anticipated to contribute to the diversification of natural rubber sources.
After securing a plot of agricultural land in Eloy, Ariz., of approximately 281 acres, Bridgestone established a research farm to employ advanced breeding practices and develop guayule cultivation techniques. The Bridgestone Agro Operations Research Farm opened in September 2013. One year later Bridgestone opened the BPRC and established, in-house, all processes necessary for developing guayule natural rubber for use in tire applications, including research and development, experimental production and manufacturing.
Bridgestone says its guayule and other raw materials research supports its long-term environmental vision of shifting toward 100% sustainable materials in tires by 2050.
For more information, visit www.bridgestone.com.