Last month, Michelin announced plans to develop alternatives to the synthetic, oil-based materials used in their tires. The company launched the program “Bio Butterfly” to investigate the viability of organics like straw, beets, and wood to create their products.
Michelin currently uses a mix of natural rubber and a synthetic compound called butadiene to make their tires. Butadiene is sourced from a petroleum byproduct, and the increased popularity of shale gas has made the material very expensive. The company expects a shortage by 2020 and is looking towards organic waste to produce a biological alternative. Biomass could potentially be fermented to create alcohol and further modified to form bio-butadiene.
Bio Butterfly is currently investigating the economic viability of transforming biological waste into tires. France’s Environment and Energy Management Agency has pledged $20 million to aid in the effort, and over the next eight years the project’s budget will total around $70 million. Other tire giants such as Bridgestone and chemical titans Eni and TPC are also hoping to develop a replacement for butadiene. Facing low supplies of oil, the market has forced the industry to become slightly more environmentally responsible.
Via The Guardian