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Taraxacum kok-saghyz (Russian dandelion)  (Source: ibot.cas.cz)
Ford and Ohio State University have joined forces to find a sustainable resource for rubber

April showers bring May flowers, but they also revive those pesky weeds. For most, seeing a dandelion pop up means a trip to the local Home Depot for some weed killer, but Ford and Ohio State University are taking a different approach to these yellow-topped intruders. 

Ohio State University had received a $3 million grant to build a processing plant for the use of these dandelions back in 2008. Now, Ford and Ohio State University are working together to study and possibly utilize dandelions as a new sustainable resource for rubber. The effort is part of Ford's "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" commitment, which aims to cut its environmental impact as well as increase production of fuel efficient vehicles

Using dandelions is a step toward this environmentally friendly direction, but not all dandelions are the same, nor can they all be made into rubber. The preferred species of dandelion for this venture is the Russian dandelion called Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS). This specific dandelion is used because a milky-white substance is excreted from its roots, which could be used to produce the rubber and even enhance the impact strength of plastics. 

Currently, this species of dandelion is being grown at Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Ford and Ohio State plan to use the dandelion's milky substance for floor mats, cup holders and interior trim.  

"We're always looking for new sustainable materials to use in our vehicles that have a smaller carbon footprint to produce and and can be grown locally," said Angela Harris, Ford research engineer. "Synthetic rubber is not a sustainable resource, so we want to minimize its use in our vehicles when possible. Dandelions have the potential to serve as a great natural alternative to synthetic rubber in our products."

Ford plans to test the material's quality and performance before putting it to use to make sure that it is durable. In addition, guayule, which is a shrub found in the Southwestern United States, will be considered for the development of natural rubber. 



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Attention Ford
By InvertMe on 5/11/2011 11:51:09 AM , Rating: 5
Please feel free to have the dandelions in my backyard. I will allow you to come and collect them all. I probably have enough to completely trim out 10-15 cars.




RE: Attention Ford
By Solandri on 5/11/2011 1:13:20 PM , Rating: 2
Some people see a lawn full of dandelions and see a problem.

Others see a lawn full of dandelions and see an opportunity.


RE: Attention Ford
By Azethoth on 5/11/2011 5:49:38 PM , Rating: 2
I see a problemtunity.


RE: Attention Ford
By chagrinnin on 5/11/2011 6:28:14 PM , Rating: 2
There's a weed for that.


RE: Attention Ford
By YashBudini on 5/12/2011 7:07:39 PM , Rating: 2
Oh great so now Monsanto is also destroying the economy.


Yay, as long as they are affordable!
By AssBall on 5/11/2011 8:36:35 AM , Rating: 2
Tires are getting super-expensive these days. I wonder if these Russian dandelion ones could potentially be cheaper and still get you your 60k miles.




RE: Yay, as long as they are affordable!
By MeesterNid on 5/11/2011 9:01:34 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah, well, "dandelion" is in this case but a euphemism for "political enemy of Vladimir Putin". So I bet those tires will last.


By Chudilo on 5/11/2011 10:15:14 AM , Rating: 2
You do realize that "Russian" is just a part of the name of the species in this case. They are not actually importing them from across the ocean.


By YashBudini on 5/12/2011 7:04:45 PM , Rating: 2
I'd be concerned about Chinese dandelions, they probably contain lead.


Sustainable alternative to synthetic rubber
By MrTeal on 5/11/2011 11:48:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
"Synthetic rubber is not a sustainable resource, so we want to minimize its use in our vehicles when possible. Dandelions have the potential to serve as a great natural alternative to synthetic rubber in our products."


Couldn't they use rubber as an alternative to synthetic rubber? You know, from a rubber tree?




By Egglick on 5/11/2011 1:19:09 PM , Rating: 2
They could, but Rubber Trees only grow well in certain parts of the world, mainly tropical climates which don't exist in the US. They also take many years to mature, whereas Dandelions don't.


By Solandri on 5/11/2011 1:21:38 PM , Rating: 2
Natural rubber is collected in a manner akin to maple syrup (it's a natural sap in certain types of trees). This makes it expensive and severely limits the quantity you can produce. The few species of trees which produce it also means there's not much variation in the properties of natural rubber.

The whole reason synthetic rubber was invented was because of the limited supply and narrow property range of natural rubber. They are not sustainable because they're a petroleum derivative (they're a type of plastic). So offsetting their use with materials from other natural sources like dandelions is always good.


*sniff*
By Stuka on 5/11/2011 11:45:31 AM , Rating: 3
In the case of the interior bits, what is it gonna do for the "new car smell". The out-gassing from petroleum products is hard to beat. What if it smells like asparagus farts?




RE: *sniff*
By Uncle on 5/12/2011 3:17:38 PM , Rating: 2
We can make rice paper, and edible panties from rice, its time to make car trims out of rice. When were finished with our throw away car, we can eat half of it and crush the rest.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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