Latex hunt produces key results in Europe

August 31, 2012
Latex hunt produces key results in Europe

The Dutch tyre company Apollo Vredestein has successfully produced the first prototypes of tyres obtained from natural latex from guayule and Russian dandelion plants. An outcome of the EU-PEARLS ('EU-based production and exploitation of alternative rubber and latex sources') project, the prototypes will be tested before their production is initiated. The researchers say these tyres could find a solid niche in the global market, helping Europe compete against Asian rubber manufacturers. EU-PEARLS received almost EUR 5.9 million under the 'Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology' (KBBE) Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

EU-PEARLS investigated potential alternative sources of and rubber in order to give Europeans a means to depend less on Asian products and to give Europe-based latex-producing facilities a boost. For its part, project partner NEIKER-Tecnalia from Spain analysed the genotyping of guayule (Parthenium argentatum) and the Russian dandelion plants (Taraxacum koksaghyz), two species used for substituting imported natural latex and their possible introduction into Europe. The researchers believe guayule can be grown in the Mediterranean area successfully and the Russian dandelion is better suited for eastern and northern countries in Europe.

Experts say various natural latexes are key for natural rubber extraction. Natural rubber is a raw material used for the production of tyres, footwear, adhesives, surgical gloves and condoms. But Europeans currently import all of the latex used in the region; this latex is derived from the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis. The top global producers of this latex are Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Despite their efforts, researchers have been unable to find a substitute for natural rubber. The EU, meanwhile, is also on a quest to find an alternative so as to avoid a coordinated increase in the price of this raw material. Thanks to the EU-PEARLS project, an alternative is here.

Both guayule and the Russian dandelion are solid alternatives. Experts have already started using guayule to produce biomass on a large scale in Spain. It should be noted that extraction of the Russian dandelion seems to be easier. The consortium optimised the development and acceleration of the growth of the Russian dandelion to boost its content of available for extraction.

Finding a solution is important because not only is Europe forced to import the material but the Hevea brasiliensis tree is facing various threats. Both pests and diseases are affecting this tree. Its cultivation is also associated with very specific climate conditions that exist primarily in Asian and South American tropical zones. Researchers also recognise that the rubber from this tree triggers a latex allergy that is prevented with the use of guayule and Russian dandelion latex.

Explore further: Europe seeks alternatives to natural latex from Asia

Related Stories

Europe seeks alternatives to natural latex from Asia

January 29, 2010

Some natural latexes are the main ingredient in the extraction of natural rubber, an indispensable raw material for all kinds of industries and essential for the manufacture of surgical gloves, condoms or tyres. All the latex ...

FDA approves new type of latex glove

April 23, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Wednesday announced approval of the first glove made from a new form of natural rubber latex, guayule latex.

Dandelion rubber

September 10, 2009

Most natural rubber comes from rubber trees in Southeast Asia, but this source is now under threat from a fungus. Researchers have optimized the Russian dandelion to make it suitable for large-scale rubber production.

Latex banned at Johns Hopkins Hospital

January 18, 2008

The landmark Baltimore hospital where latex gloves were invented has become the first major medical institution in the United States to ban latex products.

A new genre of tires: Call 'em 'sweet' and 'green'

December 14, 2011

Motorists may be driving on the world's first "green" tires within the next few years, as partnerships between tire companies and biotechnology firms make it possible to produce key raw materials for tires from sugar rather ...

Recommended for you

Close up view of growing polymer chain show jump steps

October 20, 2017

(—A team of researchers at Cornell University has devised a means for watching as a polymer chain grows after application of a catalyst. In their paper published in the journal Science, the team explains how they ...

The birth of a new protein

October 20, 2017

A yeast protein that evolved from scratch can fold into a three-dimensional shape—contrary to the general understanding of young proteins—according to new research led by the University of Arizona.

Discovery lights path for Alzheimer's research

October 19, 2017

A probe invented at Rice University that lights up when it binds to a misfolded amyloid beta peptide—the kind suspected of causing Alzheimer's disease—has identified a specific binding site on the protein that could facilitate ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.