Thanks to an exciting breakthrough closely involving Continental Tyres in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME we could soon be driving round on tyres made from Dandelions, or a newly discovered rubber extract from Dandelions to be exact!
In 2011 Continental joined forces with a research consortium who were looking at the possibility of creating rubber from a Dandelion extract after researchers at the University of Munster in Germany discovered a gum elastic located in the sap of the Russian variety of Dandelion which was just as good in terms of quality as rubber produced in sub tropical plantations.
Since forming this close working partnership in 2011 Continental have made a significant breakthrough in both the cultivation and production engineering of Dandelion rubber, which means that work is now beginning on the first ever pilot system required to extract the large quantities needed in order to produce tyres and other Continental rubber products.
Within the next 5 years the pilot facility in Munster which has already been built in order to produce this type of natural rubber by the ton will be used in order to create and refine the extraction process.
One of the major benefits of extracting rubber from the Dandelion is that it can be grown in large quantities in Europe, and harvested more cost effectively. It should allow Continental to have a home grown, and more importantly sustainable source of rubber which could even be grown on land which is not currently used for agricultural crops as it is not suitable.
In order to extract as much rubber as possible from a Dandelion crop, researchers have been working on cultivating several hectares of a new lab grown type of the Russian Dandelion, which is the only Dandelion which can be used in this process, and we should see the first ground breaking road tests of Continental tyres produced using Dandelion rubber in the next few years.