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Klaus Esterluß | Ideas

Dandelions, the new hope of the tire and rubber duck industry

Rubber Duck: CC BY NC ND 2.0:  Jerry Liu

Rubber Duck: CC BY NC ND 2.0: Jerry Liu

Take a moment to think about rubber. We all need the flexibel waterproof material everyday without noticing it.  And so does the world’s economy. Millions of things are made of rubber, tires for cars for example, the soles of shoes, rubber balls for kids to play, airbeds… And what about all these lovely rubber ducks without whom every sunday bath would be incomplete?

Although rubber can be produced synthetically, lots of the material still needs some 40 percent or more of natural rubber, coming from rubber trees. And since those trees are prone to diseases and can be affected by bad weather, scientists try to find a replacement. And they found one: Dandelions. Those yellow flowered plants contain a white, milk-like liquid that has the potential to become rubber. The success of the process depends on the strain of the plant itself. Some are more suitable than others. It’s possible to harvest at least some kind of rubber (for example for rubber bands) from every Dandelion.

rubber trees on grassland

A rubber tree plantation (credit: CC BY-SA 2.0: Marufish/flickr)

Besides dandelions tend to be a very tough weed, growing even under adverse conditions such as poor soil or a changing climate.

Luckily for the whole tire and maybe the rubber duck industry, a dandelion strain from Kazakhstan seems to have a saviour-potential. The plants taproot yields that milky fluid – with tyre-grade rubber particles in it. So molecular scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute  are working to secure the future of road transport if the tree goes the way of all flesh.

So let’s hope that the research will be a success, otherwise the rubber duck in the video below will probably be all alone forever. And don’t you want to have one of these in your tub (even if it has to be a very very big tub)?

The duck was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. It sailed into the Port of Los Angeles on August 20th, 2014 and is said to be the “world’s largest rubber duck,” being six stories tall and with a weight of 11 tons.


August 28, 2014



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