Car tyres made from dandelions
Even the Maya used the white sap from the rubber tree to make rubber balls for sports games. Since the beginning of the 20th century there have been synthetic alternatives based on crude oil, which covers around 60 percent of the annual requirement today. In some applications, the natural material, however, is superior. Natural rubber, for example, stays flexible even in low temperatures. Which is why it is used in particular for winter car tyres. They consist of approximately 40 percent of processed sap from the rubber tree. Two thirds of the annual global production of rubber is used for tyre manufacturing.
But there are problems: as with oil, the world market price for natural rubber varies greatly. In addition, many tree plantations are infected with fungi. As a result, scientists have started looking for a replacement and have found it in the milky sap of Russian dandelions.
A fully-grown plant can supply up to around 1 millilitre of sap, which isn’t a lot. But dandelions grow fast and can be harvested several times a year. Over the next few years, the cultivation of stable plant production lines is planned. Yet, the production of dandelion rubber is still more expensive than the material from the rubber tree.