Scientists Turn Food Waste Into Tires

Posted: Mar 8 2017, 5:01am CST | by , Updated: Mar 8 2017, 5:13am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Scientists Turn Food Waste into Tires
Researchers have developed a patent-pending technology for incorporating food waste into rubber. Credit: Ohio State University

Eggshells and tomato peels can replace standard petroleum-based filler that has been used in manufacturing tires for more than a century

There are many parts of food that people normally do not eat like eggshells and tomato peels. This food waste usually tossed into the garbage and eventually goes to landfills. However researchers believe these discarded parts of food could be utilized in a better way.

Researchers from Ohio State University have discovered a method to convert food waste into a replacement for petroleum-based filler that has been vastly used in tire manufacturing.

Filler makes the rubber durable and improves its performance. Traditionally, carbon black has been used as a reinforcing agent in tires due to its unique properties. But Americans companies had to buy it from overseas. Moreover, this substance is getting harder to come by.

“The tire industry is growing very quickly, and we don't just need more natural rubber, we need more filler, too,” said Katrina Cornish, a biomaterial researcher at Ohio State. “The number of tires being produced worldwide is going up all the time, so countries are using all the carbon black they can make. There's no longer a surplus, so we can't just buy some from Russia to make up the difference like we used to. At the same time, we need to have more sustainability.”

Converting eggshells and tomato peels into a new reinforcing filler is a viable solution for this problem. In fact, researchers believe the technology has the potential to solve at least three problems: it reduces the dependence of American companies on foreign filler substances, keeps waste out of landfills and makes rubber tires more tough and resilient.

“Fillers generally make rubber stronger, but they also make it less flexible," said Cindy Barrera, a researcher at Cornish’s lab. "We found that replacing different portions of carbon black with ground eggshells and tomato peels caused synergistic effects—for instance, enabling strong rubber to retain flexibility.”

To create new tire fillers, researchers bought eggshells and other food waste from a local food producer and transformed them into non-black biofillers that can be an alternative to traditional fillers used in tires.

In lab tests, researchers have found that porous microstructures of the eggshells can provide larger surface area for contact with the rubber and give rubber-based products unusual properties. Tomato peels, on the other hand, are highly stable at high temperatures and can customize the performance properties of rubber, providing more options for tire production.

Katrina Cornish says. “We may found that we can purse many applications that were not possible before with natural rubber.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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