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Technology breakthrough reduces cost to produce

Dow Corning Corporation : 10 May, 2004  (New Product)
A technology breakthrough at Dow Corning Corporation may provide a solution, heralding an era of greater availability of safer,
As consumer demand for improved road safety, better fuel economy and reduced environmental impact has gained momentum, tyre manufacturers have searched for affordable solutions. But although the technology to produce “green” tyres has been around since the early 1990s, they were not widely adopted because of the higher cost of manufacturing.

Green tyres offer numerous benefits. Their extra resiliency in the tread improves driving safety by providing better grip on slippery roads. Studies have shown that green tyres’ traction reduces stopping distances on wet and icy surfaces by 15 percent and improves overall winter driving performance by 10 to 15 percent. Tyre-rolling resistance is reduced by up to 20 percent compared to an equivalent standard tyre, which reduces vehicle fuel consumption by up to 5 percent.They also reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

“As more green tyres come on the road, the amount of fuel and pollution savings could be staggering,” said Martin Harvey, Dow Corning global market leader, Materials Manufacturing Industries. “Wider use of green tyres could save millions of barrels of oil per year and would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly.

“Green” tyres first emerged as a concept in the 1990s when tyre engineers discovered that if they used silane-treated silica as a reinforcing filler in tread compounds, instead of the traditional carbon black, tyre rolling resistance was improved. Despite this and other benefits, the higher manufacturing cost of using silane coupling agents to produce silica-reinforced tread meant higher costs to consumers and hindered widespread takeup.

As a result of collaboration between the company’s engineering and research experts in Europe and USA, Dow Corning has found a way to reduce both the amount of materials consumed and the costs in making these silane coupling agents which have contributed to reducing the costs of green tyres.

The breakthrough came when Dow Corning technologists at the company’s site in Barry, UK, began collaborating with researchers at the company’s advanced research and development facility in Michigan, USA. Using Phase Transfer Catalysis (PTC) technology, they developed a method through which the silane needed for the silica treatment component needed to make green tires could be made more affordably.

“Our technology has helped to reduce the cost of producing green tyres, which will increase the availability of green tyres, they will become more affordable and available, leading to wider adoption,” Harvey continued. “This has the potential to have significant environmental and cost benefits around the world.”

“We are pleased we have been able to provide this solution for tyre manufacturers, which reduces their costs for green tyres and helps them to make progress towards their commitments for sustainability.

The technology’s environmental benefits occur both in their manufacture and use on cars. “When comparing the amount of CO2 released in the manufacturing process with the amount of CO2 saved during the life of the tires, the benefit is that for every ton of CO2 produced in making the ulfide silane, 250 tons of CO2 are saved in reduced fuel consumption by the green tires made with it – a very good trade off” Harvey concluded.

The new technology that enables these cost benefits is “Phase-transfer catalysis,” which accelerates the reaction time needed for making silanes, reducing manufacturing costs and the amount of materials needed. In addition, the improved PTC technology requires no salt filtration, hazardous solvents, or solvent recovery – moving the “green” philosophy down the supply chain.

“PTC technology has the potential to bring the safety and fuel-efficiency benefits of green tyres to all drivers by making the silane manufacturing process more streamlined,” said Ken Kaufman, Dow Corning global product line manager, Silanes and Silica.

As the pioneer of organo silane technology, Dow Corning has been improving customers' products and profitability for more than 60 years. With a full range of silane product and application solutions, reliable supply, world-class manufacturing operations, and rededicated global reach, Dow Corning can meet virtually any company's silicone needs through its total solution offering and technology leadership.

(*) The term “Green” tyres emerged in the tyre industry in the 1990s when tyre engineers discovered that if they used silane-treated silica as a reinforcing filler in tread compounds, instead of the traditional carbon “black” tyres, rolling resistance was improved. A Life Cycle Assessment by the European Association of the Rubber Industry) determined that “Green” tyres reduce the impact on human health and the environment.
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