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Taraxacum kok-saghyz (Russian dandelion)  (Source:
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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Sustainable alternative to synthetic rubber
By MrTeal on 5/11/2011 11:48:17 AM , Rating: 2
"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.

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