In Minnesota, researchers have developed a biobased route to key tire material isoprene. The current route to manufacture isoprene uses petroleum, and efforts to coax microbes to produce relevant quantities of the chemical have proven difficult.
However, University of Minnesota researchers have recently developed a three-step, hybrid process that combines fermentation and conventional catalytic refining. Published recently in ACS Catalysis, the work could have a major impact on the multi-billion automobile-tire industry, says Paul Dauenhauer, an associate professor at University of Minnesota.
The discovery could also impact other technologically advanced rubber-based products, says Frank Bates, a polymer expert at the University.