Can food wastes be used to drive our future automobiles?


Carbon black is used as a predominant filler and constitutes approximately 32% of the rubber tires. It plays a key role in improving properties important to tire manufacturing and tire performance, i.e. to improve durability and strength for longer lifetime and improved performance. Carbon Black distributes and absorbs stress applied to a rubber component and improves its tensile strength, tear strength and abrasion resistance. Carbon Black provides electrical conductivity / resistivity to a rubber compound for dissipating static charge in dynamic applications. But both carbon black and rubber are finite resources that require manufacturing to produce, and the global demand for both continues to rise. In the present day scenario, petroleum based products are used as source of the carbon blacks which is increasing becoming scarce.

Researchers at Ohio State University are using greener, eco-friendly and sustainable solutions: using food wastes as a replacement for petroleum based carbon black. Among various food wastes tested, egg shells and tomato wastes were found to be viable alternatives imparting durability and flexibility to rubber and its products. The research team found that eggshells when grinded have porous microstructures that provide larger surface area for contact with the rubber, and impart unusual properties to rubber based material. Tomato peels are stable at high temperatures and can be used to generate advanced bio-materials with good performance. Partially replacing carbon black with ground egg shells and tomato peels in rubber enhanced its overall strength, elasticity and softness. These tests also led the researchers to widen their applications of these alternatives beyond tires to other rubber based products like gaskets, hoses and rubber gloves. The rubber produced with eggshell and tomato waste fillers has not only exceeded industrial performance standards, it has been more flexible than carbon black rubber.

Thus the valorisation of food wastes to manufacture carbon black for its application in rubber tires and related products would decrease the amount of food wastes going to landfills, take less energy to make, increase the biodegradability of the tires, cut down importation costs and reduce reliance on petroleum based products.

So be ready to drive on sustainable bio-based wheels in the coming future!!!

Photo: Researchers at The Ohio State University have developed a patent-pending technology for incorporating food waste into rubber. (KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN, COURTESY OF THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY)

PhD Arunima Nayak
Marie Curie Researcher
PhD in Environmental Chemistry

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