Dandelions transformed into tires: How scientists are turning the flowers into natural rubber

WOOSTER, Ohio - Researchers at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center believe they've found a solution to the natural rubber production problem in the U.S. by using dandelions to make tires.

Natural rubber is essential in the world of transportation, defense, and other industries, and the U.S. has depended on importing 100 percent of the resource from other countries. As inventories are becoming scarce and costs increasing, it has become difficult to continue being dependent outside of our borders.

There are also rising concerns about the use of food crops for fuel, like corn for ethanol production.

OARDC has come up with what they think is a solution to these two key problems. They've teamed up with Ohio and its Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center, along with other university and industry partners, developing a renewable, domestic source of natural rubber that can be grown in the Buckeye State.

The production could create new industries and jobs, according to OARDC, by bringing together the state's agricultural and rubber-products sectors.

The source is taraxacum kok-saghyz, a type of dandelion native to the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

According to OARDC researchers, TKS produces high-quaility natural rubber in its fleshy taproot, comparable in performance to the latex extracted from the only commercially available source of natural rubber today: the Brazilian rubber tree, hevea brasiliensis.

They also said 45 percent or more of Russian Dandelion dry matter is comprised of inulin, a carbohydrate used as a food additive that can also be turned into ethanol.

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