Car tires made from trees, grasses in the offing

Washington, Feb 12: 'Green' car tires - made from trees and grasses - may soon be a reality, thanks to scientists who have developed a new technology to produce a key molecule in automobile tires using renewable resources found right in our backyards.

Conventional car tires are viewed as environmentally unfriendly as they are predominately made from fossil fuels. The new car tires produced from biomass that include trees and grasses would be identical to existing car tires with the same chemical makeup, colour, shape and performance. 

"Our team created a new chemical process to make isoprene, the key molecule in car tires, from natural products like trees, grasses, or corn," said Paul Dauenhauer, an associate professor at University of Minnesota in the US. "This research could have a major impact on the multi-billion dollar automobile tires industry," Dauenhauer said.

Currently, isoprene is produced by thermally breaking apart molecules in petroleum that are similar to gasoline in a process called "cracking." 

The isoprene is then separated out of hundreds of products and purified. In the final step, the isoprene is reacted with itself into long chains to make a solid polymer that is the major component in car tires.