Rubber dandelions

Rubber dandelions

Natural rubber

Today’s tires are a combination of synthetic tires and natural tires made from rubber trees. But researchers have succeeded in extracting a substance from the dandelion plant that is used to make tires. Dandelions are practically unused plants except for use in a variety of salads, herbal drinks and some beverages. At least until now. But a Russian species of the plant, called Taraxacum kok-saghyz, or TKS for short, could revolutionize the rubber industry. Dandelions are practically unused plants except for use in a variety of salads, herbal drinks and some beverages. At least until now. But a Russian species of the plant, called Taraxacum kok-saghyz, or TKS for short, could revolutionize the rubber industry. Despite the invention of synthetic tires, like all synthetic materials that absorb natural raw materials, these tires are strong and resilient to natural tires. This is because natural rubber molecules, which are the product of a stepwise enzymatic synthesis, are related to the regular rubber produced by chemical engineering. In addition, the price of synthetic rubber depends on the price of the oil from which it is produced, and changes in oil prices have also had an impact on the price of rubber. Because oil will become very expensive in the future, natural tires will need to be repositioned for synthetic tires, both economically and engineeringly.

In conventional cars, about one-fifth of the tires are made of natural rubber, and in airplanes, this amount reaches more than eighty percent. However, natural tires also have problems. Hoya is difficult to breed in the Americas. Due to Leaf Blight, Hoya trees need to be planted at long distances. Even in Asia, which has so far survived the disease, planting new rubber trees requires deforestation, which is widely opposed. On the other hand, it takes time for trees to grow and reach an age when they can be harvested. For this reason, smaller plants that can be harvested faster are very attractive. One suggestion is to use Guayule, a shrub that grows on dry land. Goyol rubber is free of allergenic proteins and is very suitable for producing accessories such as surgical gloves. However, desert plants grow slowly. It takes two years for a guava to become an adult plant. Yulex’s annual crop, which grows Goyol commercially, is about 400 kg per hectare. Hoya can produce four to five times this amount, and the same amount can be obtained using TKS. Dandelions are fast-growing plants that pollinate quickly and can produce twice a year. Therefore, they are often known as weeds. If they can be turned into usable products, they can even surpass Hoya.

Research

Don Christine Scholes Greenworth and colleagues working in molecular biology and applied ecology at the Franhofer Institute in Aachen, Germany, have identified the genes that cause rubber production in TKS. They also discovered an enzyme called polyphenoloxidase, which is responsible for coagulating rubber juice, such as TKS. This coagulation is necessary for the plant, but in order for it to be used, the sap must not coagulate too soon. Using a technique called RNA intervention, Dr. Scholes has found a way to inactivate the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. This method cleaves and destroys molecules that carry the polyphenol oxidase gene instructions to make the enzyme. As a result, rubber can be easily extracted from the plant. Meanwhile, Matthew Kleinheins of Ohio State University is working to increase the TKS tire product. Dr. Kleinheins uses the old breeding method. He breeds different breeds of TKS and grinds the roots of the plant, where most of the sap is found, to determine which breed produces the most rubber. His goal is to create a race that is both productive and has large roots. In this way, the crop can be harvested by machine, using a tool similar to what is now used to harvest carrots. The combination of the above two methods – the advanced method of bioengineering and the old method of breeding – may lead to the production of a completely new species in the modern world. It could also be the beginning of what some believe is the only way forward for mankind; Return to the use of plant products that have been overshadowed by the short-term presence of cheap oil.

×

Table of Contents