Tag Archives: rubber

Material comparison.

New research produces a viable, biodegradable alternative to plastic

Researchers at The Ohio State University may have developed a viable alternative to plastic — one that breaks down naturally.

Material comparison.

The new bioplastic and rubber blend devised by Ohio State researchers proved much more durable than the bioplastic on its own
Image credits The Ohio State University.

To say that humanity has a plastic problem would be an understatement. Plastic waste litters the oceans, steadily builds up in landfills, and it’s not going away (by itself). Needless to say, the search for a viable, biodegradable replacement for plastic is quite a heated one.

New research from The Ohio State University may have come up with one such material. The team combined natural rubber with bioplastics to create a novel material that could be everything we, and the food industry, needs.

Bendy and strong

“Previous attempts at this combination were unsuccessful because the softness of the rubber meant the product lost a lot of strength in the process,” said lead author Xiaoying Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher in Ohio State’s Department of Food Science and Technology.

About 90% of today’s plastics are petroleum-based and not biodegradable, which is a major environmental concern. So far, attempts to make viable plastic replacements from renewable sources haven’t been very successful — mostly due to processing and economic constraints. Among the obstacles, products to date have been too brittle for food packaging.

The team’s product, derived from microbial fermentation and strengthened with natural rubber, would perform largely like conventional plastic, and, according to the team, it is probably the greatest success in this area so far.

So, how did they do it? Well, the team started by melting rubber together with a plant-based thermoplastic called PHBV, organic peroxide, and another additive called trimethylolpropane triacrylate (TMPTA). The resulting material was 75% tougher and 100% more flexible than PHBV on its own. These two properties combined make it much better suited for food packaging, a massive contributor to plastic waste.

The extra strength and flexibility are a huge improvement, as previous attempts to combine rubber and PHBV resulted in materials that were too weak to be used in food packaging — they couldn’t withstand any step, be it processing, shipping, or handling in stores and homes. It was especially a problem for containers used for freezing and then microwaving, said the study’s senior author, Yael Vodovotz, a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State.

Other attempts at making this type of rubber-enhanced bioplastic have reduced the strength of the PHBV by as much as 80%, Zhao adds. The team’s approach only reduced the material’s strength by 30%, which is still manageable. However, what the team needed was to get their material more flexible than previous attempts without a significant reduction in strength, as flexibility is very important for plastic films used to package everything from fresh produce to frozen foods, she said.

“Imagine trying to pull a block of concrete apart with your hands. That’s testing its strength. But karate chopping it with your hand or foot is testing its toughness—how easily it breaks,” explains study co-author Katrina Cornish, an expert in natural rubber and professor of horticulture and crop science at Ohio State.

“You can never pull [the new material] apart, but if you’re strong enough you can break it.”

The team wants to continue researching which other biodegradable and environmentally-conscious materials might be used as fillers to further strengthen their composite material. Some of the things being considered are tomato skins, eggshells, and the “cake” left behind after a fellow researcher extracts oil from spent coffee grounds. They’re even considering the use of invasive grasses in their material, which would help solve another environmental issue at the same time.

“We want something that would otherwise go to waste that is sustainable and also relatively cheap,” said the study’s senior author, Yael Vodovotz, a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State. “We could dry them, grind them up and potentially use these grasses as a fibrous filler,” Vodovotz said.

Beyond packaged foods, a bioplastic could potentially be used in other food-related applications such as utensils and cutting boards or gloves for those working in food service. It could also see use as a building material, or to make parts for cars and airplanes.

“As we get closer and closer to working with food manufacturers, there are specific questions our potential partners are asking,” Vodovotz said. “We have to be very careful about what we use in this process in order to meet their needs, and they have very specific parameters.”

The paper “Synergistic Mechanisms Underlie the Peroxide and Coagent Improvement of Natural-Rubber-Toughened Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) Mechanical Performance” has been published in the journal Polymers.

Credit: Harvard University.

Squishy computers now enable the first fully soft robots

Credit: Harvard University.

Credit: Harvard University.

Researchers at Harvard University have designed the first rubber computer that relies exclusively on soft logic. In one of the experiments, this unusual computer was used to program a soft robot that dived and surfaced inside a transparent water tank depending on the pressure it sensed. The whole setup contains no hard or electronic parts.

In the past decade, researchers have devoted a lot of interest to soft robotics, which involves designing machines that resemble biological systems like squids, caterpillars, starfish, human hands and more. Unlike their ‘hard’ counterparts, soft robots are mostly made of elastic and flexible materials which allow them to mold to the environment. Such machines can stretch, twist, scrunch and squish, change shape or size, wrap around objects, and perform tasks impossible by rigid robotics standards. Until now, even soft robots had some rigid components they couldn’t get rid of, such as electronics — but not anymore.

“We’re emulating the thought process of an electronic computer, using only soft materials and pneumatic signals, replacing electronics with pressurized air,” says Daniel J. Preston, first author on a paper published in PNAS.

The most basic components of electronic computers are logic gates. This circuitry receives input information, runs it through some programming, and then outputs a reaction, whether printing a document or moving a robotic arm on the Y-axis. Our biological circuitry isn’t all that different. For instance, when a doctor strikes the tendon below the kneecap with a soft hammer, the nervous system reacts by jerking the leg.

To make logic gates without any electronic component, Preston and colleagues used silicone tubing and pressurized air. All complex operations performed by computers can be performed with only three logic gates: NOT, AND, and OR. By programming how the soft valves react to different air pressures, the researchers were able to replicate all three of these logic gates. For instance, the NOT gate simply works like this: if the input valve has high pressure, the output will be low pressure. In the case of the fish-like robot which the researchers experimented with in a water tank, the NOT logic gate uses an environmental pressures sensor. When the sensor registers low pressure at the top, the robot dives and then surfaces when it senses high pressure. The command can also be controlled through an external soft button, as you can see in the video below.

Soft robots have their own set of advantages that make them uniquely suited for a range of applications. Modern assembly lines are packed with hard robots that perform all sorts of extremely precise and fast operations. However, if a human happens to get in the way, serious injury becomes a huge risk. With soft robotics, this is not a problem because they can only exert so much force.

Some of the properties that make soft robots so attractive are affordability, ease of manufacture, light weight, resistance to physical damage and corrosive substances, and durability. Soft robots also have the benefit of being capable of operating where electronics struggle, such as in the presence of high level of radiation or in outer-space. These properties make soft robots particularly appealing for humanitarian and rescue operations, such as in the wake of a flood, hurricane, or nuclear power plant meltdown. “If it gets run over by a car, it just keeps going, which is something we don’t have with hard robots,” Preston says.

Soft robotics offer another interesting possibility. Because there are no electronics, a completely soft robot could be made from materials which match the refractive index of water. When completely submerged, the robot would appear transparent. Preston says he hopes to make an autonomous soft robot that is invisible to the naked eye and perhaps even to sonar.

In a sea of information overload, artificial intelligence, and all sorts of complex computing, it’s refreshing to see new concepts that actually hinge on simplicity.

“There’s a lot of capability there,” Preston says, “but it’s also good to take a step back and think about whether or not there’s a simpler way to do things that gives you the same result, especially if it’s not only simpler, it’s also cheaper.”

Rubber band.

Rubber band producer adds graphene to its bands — to make them last forever

Hot Springs-based Alliance Rubber Co. teamed up with British researchers to make the humble rubber band eternal — by adding graphene.

Rubber band.

Image via Pixabay.

Graphene really is an incredible material. These atom-thick sheets of pure carbon are ridiculously strong, much stronger than steel and almost every other material we’ve ever discovered. Back in 2008, Columbia University engineer James Hone said that it would take an elephant standing on a pencil to pierce through a sheet of graphene as thick as a regular food wrap. So researchers are trying to mix it into all kinds of materials in an attempt to capitalize on its strength. For example, a recently-published paper details how researchers have been feeding water laced with graphene and carbon nanotubes to spiders so they’re spin ultra-durable silk strands.

Put a band on it

Now, the rubber band manufacturer is looking to bring graphene into the mix and level-up their product. Alliance plans to start a three-year-long partnership with researchers from the University of Sussex, during which they’ll work out the perfect graphene-rubber mix for the bands, says Alliance’s director of business Jason Risner. Too little graphene will result in sub-optimal bands; too much, and they’ll lose elasticity.

Graphene rubber bands aren’t new, however — the two have been mixed before. But what Alliance hopes to do is optimize this design, and get as much strength out of the bands as possible without sacrificing flexibility, allowing them to withstand years of use and abuse. After they figure out the best recipe for the task, the company plans to have virtually unbreakable rubber bands which it can sell to a wide range of industries, from retailers and wholesalers to agribusiness and tech companies, Risner explains.

The mixed-in graphene will address some of the shortcomings of traditional rubber bands. For example, they’ll be anti-static, a critical requirement for companies handling electronic goods — which considered rubber bands anathema up to now, as they easily build up static charges that wreck circuit boards.

Artistic depiction of graphene.

As the graphene-infused bands are expected to last much longer than their rubber-only counterparts, the company is also considering embedding them with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags or pigments that change color with temperature or time. Alliance says this holds enormous potential for farmers and shops. The tags would allow for much easier and cheaper tracking of products from field to aisle. The pigments would allow stores to track the condition goods are delivered in by showing whether or not produce adhered to temperature standards before delivery.

“They could reject [produce] at the store because [the band] changed colour based on temperature,” Riesler explains.

The RFID-color system would also enable customers to get a lot of information about a product with only a short glance. If a certain item comes normally comes with a blue band, seeing a black band on it would let you know the product’s been improperly handled.

But perhaps the single most satisfying achievement would be to finally have rubber bands that don’t break. That’s why the company plans to eventually mix graphene into every band it produces.

Rubber duckies are a haven for bacteria, new study shows

Cute as they may be, rubber duckies (and other toys like them) provide ideal conditions for bacterial and fungal growth — and the sudsy moist environment of a bath favors that growth too.

Dark side of bath toys. Credit: Andri Bryner, Eawag.

Oh no, science is taking our rubber ducks!

The study was carried out by a group of Swiss and US researchers. Over a period of 11 weeks, they carried out experiments with real toys, exposing them to either clean or dirty bath water, which contains things that you’d expect to see there (such as soap and bodily fluids). They found that “diverse microbial growth is promoted not only by the plastic materials but by bath users themselves.”

“Dense growths of bacteria and fungi are found on the inner surface of these flexible toys, and a murky liquid will often be released when they are squeezed by a child,” the Swiss government statement said.

But the real kicker came when they cut the rubber duckies into halves: researchers found between five million and 75 million cells per square centimeter were observed on the inner surfaces, and some of the bacteria species were quite worrying. Researchers also point out that bathing only in clean water reduces the chances of bacteria and fungal infestation.

“Fungal species were detected in almost 60 percent of the real bath toys and in all the dirty-water control toys,” the statement said.

“Potentially pathogenic bacteria were identified in 80 percent of all the toys studied, including Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” which is often the culprit in hospital-acquired infections, it added.

Relax, no one’s taking your ducks away

This isn’t really unexpected — any plastic material you dunk into bathwater is bound to promote the growth of bacteria and fungus. But having a clear, quantified description of what happens on and inside of the plastic is, of course, an important step in directing evidence-based policy. However, researchers say, you shouldn’t throw away your rubber duckies just yet — in fact, the bacteria they hold might actually be helping children’s immune systems.

“This could strengthen the immune system, which would be positive, but it can also result in eye, ear, or even gastrointestinal infections,” microbiologist Frederik Hammes pointed out in a statement.

Instead, researchers call for tighter regulations on the polymeric materials used to produce bath toys.

Journal Reference: Lisa Neu et al. Ugly ducklings—the dark side of plastic materials in contact with potable water, npj Biofilms and Microbiomes (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41522-018-0050-9

Green Rubber.

Your phone’s case and your car’s tires may soon be made from renewable, plant sugars

Researchers from a trio of U.S. universities have developed a technique to produce butadiene — a molecule traditionally sourced from oil or natural gas that underpins synthetic rubber and plastics — from renewable sources.

Green Rubber.

Rubber is going green.
Image credits Hans Braxmeier.

Butadiene is the prime building block used for a whole bunch of materials we use today. It can be strewn together/polymerized to create styrene-butadiene rubber, the stuff quality tires are made of (apart, of course, from those made from eggshells and tomatoes). As nitrile butadiene rubber, it’s used to make hoses, seals, and the ubiquitous medical rubber glove. Butadiene is also the main component in acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, a rigid plastic that can be molded into hardy shapes — your computer or console case is likely made from this substance.

But getting your hands on butadiene does pose one economic and ecological problem — you need to refine natural hydrocarbons such as oil and gas to produce it. So understandably, there has been a push develop renewable (and if at all possible, cheaper) methods of obtaining this monomer. One new paper describes exactly one such method: the team — from the University of Delaware, the University of Minnesota and the University of Massachusetts — has invented a process to make butadiene from renewable sugars found in trees, grasses, and corn.

“Our team’s success came from our philosophy that connects research in novel catalytic materials with a new approach to the chemistry,” says University of Delaware-based Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation Director Dionisios Vlachos, the Allan and Myra Ferguson Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UD and a co-author of the study. “This is a great example where the research team was greater than the sum of its parts.”

“Our team combined a catalyst we recently discovered with new and exciting chemistry to find the first high-yield, low-cost method of manufacturing butadiene,” he adds. “This research could transform the multi-billion-dollar plastics and rubber industries.”

The three-step process begins with biomass-derived sugars. Using technology developed at the CCEI, the team can convert this sugars into a ring-like compound named farfural. This substance is then further processed into another ring compound called tetrahydrofuran (THF). The innovative third step uses phosphorus all-silica zeolite, a catalyst also developed at the CCEI, to break the THF rings into butadiene with more than 95 percent efficiency — considered a high-yield process in chemical manufacturing.

The reaction’s “before and after.”
Image credits P. J. Dauenhauer et al., (2017), ACS.

The authors coined this novel, selective reaction “dehydra-decyclization” to show its capability for simultaneously removing water and cracking THF at once.

The paper “Biomass-Derived Butadiene by Dehydra-Decyclization of Tetrahydrofuran” has been published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.


Scientists found a way to make car tires using eggshells and tomato peels


Credit: Pixabay

A team at Ohio State University made tires using a rubber composite partly made with a filler consisting of tomato peels and eggshells. Tests suggest the resulting tires not only meet industry standards but exceed them. The benefits are two-fold. For one, we can actually turn food waste into something useful. Secondly, the findings show it’s possible to replace some of the petroleum-derived products currently thought indispensable in tire manufacturing with more environmentally friendly materials without sacrificing performance or quality.

The growing food waste problem and some (clever) solutions

A fifth of the world’s food is lost to waste and overeating, according to a previous study reported by scientists at the University of Edinburgh. Not only this is is a shame considering hundreds of millions of people around the world are malnourished, food waste also contributes to perhaps an even more pressing world problem: climate change.

The most inefficient food production is growing livestock with losses of 78 percent or 840 million tonnes each year. Every time you leave a pound of meat or a pint of milk to go stale you’re actually wasting 4 up to 7 pounds of grain. To produce all this food, which by now has gone to waste, greenhouse gases are released throughout the agricultural production chain from planting the grain to harvesting to feeding them to cattle to transportation. Ultimately, once food waste ends up in landfills, more greenhouse gases will be released under the form of methane — a byproduct of bacterial decomposition.

Spoiled food, however, need not go to waste. Food can be quite chemically complex and varied which is why many have recognized there’s a huge opportunity at stake. One obvious solution is to convert food waste into energy. In the United States, for instance, there are numerous waste-to-energy plants whose role is to convert all that biogenic garbage into energy to power or heat your home. Typically, these are burned to produce steam and later electricity, just like in any conventional plants. More interesting waste-to-energy plants use anaerobic bacteria to extract energy.

Let’s not forget about the most accessible and oldest solution to food waste which we’ve been using to much effect for thousands of years: turn all that spoiled and leftover food into compost, a great natural fertilizer for your garden. Then, there are more creative solutions. One fashion designer, for instance, is turning food waste into clothing while researchers from Hong Kong have converted food waste into graphene, you know the wonder material everyone thinks is going to change the world.

Researchers led by Katrina Cornish from Ohio State University are also using science to solve our growing food waste problem. Cornish wrote to dozens of food processors and, eventually, she had all sorts of discarded food shipped to her lab, from sauerkraut juice to batter drippings. Among the produce were also eggshells and tomato peels. Eggshells are mostly made of calcium carbonate and tests show these make for great reinforcing material due to their porous structure. Tomato peels are pretty thick and tough and can be very stable at high temperature — try cooking raw tomatoes and you’ll see how sturdy their skin is.

Grounded eggshells and tomato peel particles used to make a rubber composite for tires. Credit: Katrina Cornish

Grounded eggshells and tomato peel particles used to make a rubber composite for tires. Credit: Katrina Cornish

Together, the eggshells and tomato peels proved to be a great filler that can replace carbon black, a material made from petroleum whose costs vary with the price of oil and which can end up being 30% of a tire’s weight. Because car tires are in great demand, manufacturers have found themselves in a bit of a predicament because there is no longer a surplus of rubber nor carbon black. But we all know there’s no shortage of eggs and tomatoes. Popular Science tells us that every year in the U.S. some 80 billion eggs and 15 million tons of tomatoes are produced.

When the researchers combined their food waste filler with natural rubber, the resulting tires performed on par with industry standards, as reported in the journal Polymers and the Environment. Actually, the value provided was higher than expected. Typically, carbon black makes rubber stronger but also less flexible but the ground eggshells and tomato peels enabled the strong rubber to retain flexibility. Some applications might rejoice.

Earlier last month, ZME showed how a group at the University of Minnesota managed to make isoprene — a key molecule used in the production of tires — from renewable sources like grasses or trees. Previously, isoprene could only be sourced from cracking oil. Combined with the Ohio State findings, it now looks practical to make a tire entirely from renewable sources.

As mentioned earlier, however, another problem is rubber but Cornish hopes to solve this issue too by researching rubber alternatives. One promising candidate is the rubber dandelion, which is similar but not quite the same with the common dandelion growing in your backyard.

“The rubber dandelion comes from northwest China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but it can grow in snowy areas of Ohio,” she says. “But it is not very sturdy, so we are trying to make it stronger and higher yielding.” If successful, “it could grow as an annual crop, and it could create many processing jobs,” she adds.

This illusion can hack your brain into feeling the space around you

Neuroscientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden have found that they can make people “feel” the space immediately around them. The participants describe the sensation like a “force field” surrounding them.

Image credits Amely/Pixabay

Our brains have developed to be aware not just of our body’s position in space, but also of the objects in our immediate vicinity known as the peripheral space. This ability allows us to effectively grasp or interact with the objects that surround us and serves to protect us from harm.

Imagine you’ve just finished lunch with a friend in a restaurant. As you’re getting up to leave, a waitress passes through your peripheral vision. You’ll instinctively move in such a way as not to collide with her; your sense of peripheral space has saved you from getting doused in scalding hot coffee.

The first evidence of this phenomenon appeared in the late 1990s. Researchers at Princeton University studied the brains of monkeys and found that neurons in the parietal and frontal lobes generate electric signals not only when an object touched their body, but also when it came close enough to any part of their bodies. When stimulating these neurons, the monkeys adopted defensive movements — reflexively moving their arms into a protective posture.

These experiments were never repeated on humans, but patients suffering from strokes in the right posterior parietal lobe report that they can’t sense peripheral stimuli on the left side of their bodies but “sense” things further away on that side.

“This suggests that there is a representation similar to those found in monkeys in the human brain,” says Arvid Guterstam of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

To test this theory, Guterstam and his colleagues employed the rubber hand illusion to trick humans into actually feeling our peripersonal space. This experiment involves hiding a volunteer’s hand from sight then stroking it with a paintbrush. The experimenter simultaneously strokes an adjacent, visible rubber hand during this time, at the same speed and in the same spot on the rubber and real hand. After a few minutes, the participants start feeling the touch on the rubber hand, as if it were their own. This only works as long as the two hands are close enough together.

For the new study, the team recruited 101 adults but instead of brushing the rubber hand directly, they moved the brush above it as they touched the real hand. The volunteers thus felt the stroke on their body but saw the brush move in mid-air, about 10 centimeters above the rubber hand.

For the most part, volunteers reported feeling a “magnetic force” or a “force field” between the paintbrush and the rubber hand. They describe it as the brush hitting an invisible barrier. They also reported feeling that the rubber hand belonged to them.

“We can elicit this bizarre sensation of there actually being something in mid-air between the brush and the rubber hand,” says Guterstam.

Here too, distance seems to be a factor. When the brush was held more than 30 or 40 centimeters above the rubber hand, the illusion disappeared. Placing an opaque metal barrier between the rubber hand and the brush also had this effect. Guterstam speculates that this happens because the barrier makes it impossible for the hand to reach up and grasp anything, or for anything to hit the hand; in essence, it limits the perceived peripersonal space of the limb.

“This is a wonderful study,” says Michael Graziano, who conducted the 1990s experiments. “For decades, the neuroscience of the parietal and frontal lobes has filled in our knowledge of the special margin of safety, or buffer zone, around the body. Now we have a clever way to get at the phenomenon through an illusion that is easy to implement in the lab.”

The full paper, titled “The magnetic touch illusion: A perceptual correlate of visuo-tactile integration in peripersonal space” has been published online in the journal Cognition and is available here.

Old tires become material for new and improved roads

Scrap tires, which are very problematic to dispose of and can cause many problems, can now be used to lower road noise and reduce need for road maintenance.

Almost 300 million scrap tires are generated every year in the US alone, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You may wonder what’s exactly happening with these wheels, and it’s a pretty good question – but the answer is not pretty. At best, they end up in landfills, but in some cases they become breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes and rodents. They also carry a significant fire hazard, and are very rarely recycled.

It’s easy to understand why, in recent years, efforts have been made to turn this problem into a sustainable, eco friendly and economically viable solution. Magdy Abdelrahman, for example, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at North Dakota State University, is working on ways to turn old tires into new and improved roads. He is experimenting with “crumb” rubber–ground up tires of different sized particles–and other components to improve the rubberized road materials that many US states (and non-US as well) are using to improve aging asphalt.

“It’s very durable,” he says. “We mix it with different materials and in different percentages, and in different conditions, to find the best ways to add rubber to asphalt.”

Despite what you may think, tires are not the world’s largest market for rubber. That pedestal is taken by asphalt rubber, consuming an equivalent of 12 million tires every year. When combining asphalt with tire rubber, it becomes more resilient and sturdy, also lowering the noise created in the driving process. But perhaps the biggest advantage is the elimination of excess, hazardous tires.

“This project will have a broad impact because solid waste is problematic throughout the world,” Abelrahman says. “Asphalt applications have the potential to contribute to the solution of the growing solid waste problem provided that engineering and environmental concerns are addressed. Asphalt binders represent an area that can improve pavement performance.”

Of course you can’t just take old tires, melt them, mix them with asphalt, and expect to have good results. Abdelrahman studies what additives can be used to improve this mix, as well as how it does under different environmental conditions.

“We want to assess the environmental impact of adding components to the mixing of crumb rubber and asphalt, for example, is it going to leach out in the rain?” he says. “Traditional, that is, normal, asphalt-rubber materials will not cause harm to the soil or the ground water. But some additives may. We already know that the technology [rubberized roads] is proven to work, but we want to make it work much, much better,” he adds. “We are trying to find the scientific and engineering aspects to make it better and, at the same time, be sure it is environmentally friendly.”

It’s really important to start recycling old materials in a useful and sustainable way, because otherwise, the next generations will simply have nothing left to use.

“It is really important for them to understand that if we keep using new materials, that our grandchildren won’t have anything left,” he concludes.

Via National Science Foundation

Dandelions may be used to produce Ford wheels

Poor dandelions – they never even get a chance. If they shop up on your front lawn, you’re probably gonna go and buy some weed killer and wipe them out. If they show up at a picnic, they never even get creditted as flowers. Even animals don’t like them. But a Ford is taking them extremely serious, and they offered a 3$ million grant to the University of Ohio to see how dandelions could be used as a new and sustainable resource for rubber. The effort is part of Ford’s campaign entitled “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, which aims to cut environmental negative impact as well as increase production of fuel for existing cars.

The thing is, even though using dandelions in this way is a really good idea, not all dandelions are the same, and not all of them can be made into rubber. Actually, there is only one preferred species which researchers suggest: is the Russian dandelion called Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS); it promises to yield such good results because of a milky white substance excreted from its roots, which could be used to produce the rubber and even enhance the strength of plastic.

“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.”

Of course, Ford wants to test the accuracy of the studies and verifying that it is durable before putting it to use, but results are remarkable so far, and this is yet another example of how useful and green can be put together to benefit everybody.

PS: I like dandelions.