Bridgestone Corporation (BSJ) announced plans for an extensive research project in the United States dedicated to developing Guayule as a commercially viable, renewable source of high-quality natural rubber and as an alternative to the Hevea tree.
Guayule (pronounced Why-u-lee) is a perennial shrub native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. This plant produces natural rubber in its bark and roots. Natural rubber from Guayule has almost identical qualities compared to natural rubber harvested from Hevea trees, which is currently the primary source for the natural rubber used in tires.
This project is being done by Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) in collaboration with BSJ. BSJ is providing the funding and strategic input for the effort, while BATO will be responsible for finding the suitable location and operating the pilot farm and process research facility. BATO will also leverage the resources of the Bridgestone Americas Center for Research and Technology and its Akron Technical Center to provide technical and research expertise.
BATO is currently seeking land to establish the pilot farm and construct the rubber process research center in the southwestern United States. Research and development will be conducted by a dedicated research team of agricultural scientists, engineers and process technicians focused on optimizing the agronomic and processing technologies necessary to produce world-class, tire-grade rubber in adequate quantities appropriate for manufacturing.
The company expects to finalize a location, establish the research farm and begin construction on the process research center later in 2012. The facility is expected to be fully operational in 2014. Trial rubber production should start in 2015.
The Bridgestone Group will leverage the knowledge and experience it gained through its participation in a Guayule research project with the US Department of Agriculture from 1988 to 1991, which focused on extracting rubber for tires from the biomass of Guayule, in this new project. The successful commercial development of Guayule will diversify the source of natural rubber for the tire and rubber industry and reduce today’s heavy reliance on Hevea Brasiliensis, which has a limited growing area restricted to tropical climates close to the equator. By contrast, Guayule is native to desert climates with a huge potential growing area.