Could the humble dandelion revolutionize tire manufacturing supply chains? In 1931, Soviet scientists were on the hunt for a natural source of rubber that would help the USSR become self-sufficient in key materials. They scoured the vast and various territories of the Soviet Union and tested over 1,000 different species looking for an alternative to the South American rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensi. Eventually, on the steppes of Kazakhstan, they found one. By 1941, the Russian dandelion, Taraxacum koksaghyz , supplied 30% of the USSR’s rubber. During the Second World War, shortages of Havea rubber prompted other countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany, to begin cultivating dandelion rubber. Once the war was over and supplies returned to normal, these countries — including, ultimately, the Soviets — switched back to Hevea tree rubber because it was cheaper. But now, with demand for rubber continuing to grow, there is renewed interest in the Russian dandelion, particularly from the tire industry, which consumes 70% of the world’s rubber supply. Diversifying natural rubber Overall, 65% of rubber consumed worldwide is derived from fossil fuels . This synthetic rubber is cheaper and more hardwearing than its natural counterpart. But natural rubber disperses heat […]

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