Continental has just opened a research laboratory in Anklam, Germany, for their new innovative dandelion-plant based natural rubber. The company is the first in the world to place large investments in industrialising dandelion rubber.
The new research laboratory, covering an area of 30,000 square metres, will be the base for future research on farming and the extraction process of Russian dandelion marketed as Taraxagum. The facility will initially house a team of 20 personnel.
Future plans involving the surrounding areas of Anklam include enlarging the dandelion farms to 800 hectares to support the research of scaling up production of Taraxagum.
The company, together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME), the Julius Kühn Institute, and the plant breeder Aeskulap, first started researching on Russian dandelion roots to replace natural rubber from rubber trees since 2011. The roots are specially cultivated to produce a high yield of latex from a larger size.
Continental and the research partners have achieved two breakthroughs with Taraxagum. The first product, a winter tyre featuring a tread made from Taraxagum, was brought to trial in 2014, followed by a truck tyre in 2016. Continental is aiming to have Taraxagum ready for series production within the next 5 years and then gradually introduce it into volume production.
Apart from reducing dependency on traditionally produced natural rubber in the tropics, dandelion can be cultivated in Northern and Western Europe, significantly reducing transportation time and cost plus contributing to the sustainable use of existing resources.
Dr Andreas Topp, Continental’s Head of Material and Process Development and Industrialization for Tires said, “Furthermore, a natural rubber tree requires up to seven years before the first pieces of useable rubber can be harvested. By contrast, natural rubber from dandelion plants could be harvested several times a year without any waiting time at all.”