SAN FRANCISCO, March 24, 2010 - Motorists will be driving on the world's first green tires within the next five years, scientists predicted here today, thanks to a revolutionary new technology that produces a key tire ingredient from renewable feedstocks rather than petroleum-derived feedstocks. The technology, described at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), stands to reduce the tire industry's reliance on crude oil - seven gallons of which now go into each of the approximately one billion tires produced each year worldwide.


The first green tires made from renewable materials will be available within five years, scientists say. Credit: iStock

The new tires will be a sweet advance toward greener, more sustainable transportation in a quite literal sense, according to Joseph McAuliffe, Ph.D., who reported on the technology. The process can use sugars derived from sugar cane, corn, corn cobs, switchgrass or other biomass to produce the ingredient, a biochemical called isoprene, derived from renewable raw materials

In his ACS presentation, McAuliffe described how Genencor engineered bacteria to efficiently convert sugars to isoprene and how the smooth integration of fermentation and recovery processes promises to deliver a new route to this strategically important ingredient used to make synthetic rubber.

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, have established a research collaboration to develop an integrated fermentation, recovery and purification system for producing BioIsopreneTM product from renewable raw materials. Genencor intends to commercialize the technology within the next five years.

This is an enormous market, McAuliffe said. BioIsopreneTM product will serve as a renewable and cost-competitive alternative to isoprene. It's a material that can drive new markets, so I believe those numbers highlighting global consumption would grow if new material became available.

We want to make biochemicals from renewable materials, McAuliffe said, partially as a hedge against rising crude oil prices and much more so because this approach moves us to a more sustainable future.