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Tires made from trees -- better, cheaper, more fuel efficient
Date:7/21/2009

CORVALLIS, Ore. Automobile owners around the world may some day soon be driving on tires that are partly made out of trees which could cost less, perform better and save on fuel and energy.

Wood science researchers at Oregon State University have made some surprising findings about the potential of microcrystalline cellulose a product that can be made easily from almost any type of plant fibers to partially replace silica as a reinforcing filler in the manufacture of rubber tires.

A new study suggests that this approach might decrease the energy required to produce the tire, reduce costs, and better resist heat buildup. Early tests indicate that such products would have comparable traction on cold or wet pavement, be just as strong, and provide even higher fuel efficiency than traditional tires in hot weather.

"We were surprised at how favorable the results were for the use of this material," said Kaichang Li, an associate professor of wood science and engineering in the OSU College of Forestry, who conducted this research with graduate student Wen Bai.

"This could lead to a new generation of automotive tire technology, one of the first fundamental changes to come around in a long time," Li said.

Cellulose fiber has been used for some time as reinforcement in some types of rubber and automotive products, such as belts, hoses and insulation but never in tires, where the preferred fillers are carbon black and silica. Carbon black, however, is made from increasingly expensive oil, and the processing of silica is energy-intensive. Both products are very dense and reduce the fuel efficiency of automobiles.

In the search for new types of reinforcing fillers that are inexpensive, easily available, light and renewable, OSU experts turned to microcrystalline cellulose a micrometer-sized type of crystalline cellulose with an extremely well-organized structure. It is produced in a low-cost process of acid hydro
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Contact: Kaichang Li
kaichang.li@oregonstate.edu
541-737-8421
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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