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Corn as a component of tractor tires? It’s not so far-fetched

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There are dozens, if not hundreds, of raw materials that go into the manufacturing of tires — so would it be a shock to learn that corn could become one of them.

That is the hope of a team from three research universities who set out to produce a more sustainable tire. The result was making, butadiene, the chemical common to synthetic rubber, out of renewable resources such as trees, grasses, and corn. Sustainability, the road is now yours.

The scientists, who hailed from the University of Delaware, the University of Minnesota and the University of Massachusetts, published their findings online with the American Chemical Society, and it will be in the ACS’ printed Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering journal.

The past 10 years have seen a shift toward an academic research focus on renewable chemicals and butadiene, in particular, due to its importance in commercial products, said Dionisios Vlachos, a co-author of the study.

“Our team combined a catalyst we recently discovered with new and exciting chemistry to find the first high-yield, low-cost method of manufacturing butadiene,” Vlachos said. “This research could transform the multi-billion-dollar plastics and rubber industries.”

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