When tire manufacturers make their tires, there are dozens of raw materials used. Most of the mixture, however, is comprised of just three substances; they are natural rubber, synthetic rubber, and carbon-black. Unfortunately, the issue that the tire makers have to deal with is that the supplies of these raw materials are constantly subject to influences outside of their control. This makes the manufacturing process difficult at times because raw materials are in short supply. Let’s look closer at the supply issues that they face.
You probably know that natural rubber comes from the latex of tropical rubber trees. It is a great sustainable product but much of it is produced in countries with unstable economies. This, of course, can affect its supply and pricing.
Synthetic rubber comes from the combination of various raw materials and compounds to make a substance that is very similar to natural rubber. Most of the raw materials come from petroleum. When oil prices are low, this isn’t a problem but when they increase, it affects the economics of production.
The third substance is Carbon Black. Carbon Black is a powdery black substance made up mostly of pure carbon. Like synthetic rubber, it is made from petroleum as well. Carbon black is the main filler substance used in the tire making process and more of it is used percentage-wise in tires (28%) than any other material.
Researchers at Ohio State’s Biomaterials Group received federal funding to search for alternate materials that could be used in the manufacturing of tires. Of special interest were waste biomaterials because they are cheap to obtain and there is an awful lot of it around.
As it turns out, alternate raw materials may be more obvious than originally thought. The researchers at Ohio State have discovered that egg shells, of all things, make excellent filler material. Here’s why: Egg shells are composed of an inert, rock-like substance called calcium carbonate. Because of this, eggshells are naturally able to resist deterioration over time. They also have microscopic pores on their surfaces that allow the rubber compounds in the mixture to stick to their surfaces quite well.
According to the United Eggs Producers Association, the U.S. produces around 80 billion eggs annually. Of that 80 billion, commercial food factories use about half of them for the egg white and yokes inside. That means some 40 billion eggshells are discarded every year. This is huge amount of filler material that can be used in the tire manufacturing business.
The actual processes to utilize eggshells in tire manufacturing have been established and Ohio State has begun licensing the technology to interested parties. They are doing this through EnergyEn, a company that was formed via a partnership between Ohio State and private equity companies. At the present time, several of the big tire manufacturers are looking into these processes and are evaluating results. According to Sheridan Nissan of New Castle, a local Nissan dealer in New Castle, DE, Continental tires (the factory stock tires on most Nissans) is one of the first Asian manufacturers to evaluate alternate filler materials such as those made from eggshells.
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