Rubber Journal Asia Synthetic Rubber US company will carry Arlanxeo’s brands of Keltan (EPDM), Baypren (CR), Krynac and Perbunan (NBRs), Therban (HNBR), Levapren and Levamelt (EVMs). Arlanxeo’s HPE products are suitable for a wide range of industrial applications, including modifiers for plastic and adhesive raw materials, in gas and oil exploration and production, and in functional components for the automotive and cable industries. US synthetic rubber manufacturer Lion Elastomers has also recently hitched a distribution pact with Ohio-based TL Squire & Co for reselling its cold styrene butadiene rubber and EPDM brands Royalene and Royaltherm to selected accounts. Isoprene development on a roll Isoprene rubber (IR) is dubbed as natural rubber’s synthetic alter ego. Thus, the US, with its large tyre and non-tyre industries, is pursuing commercialisation of isoprene. Globally, isoprene is anticipated to corner nearly US$4 billion of the synthetic rubber market by 2025, according to a Zion Market Research report. The North American isoprene market is predicted to rise significantly over the period from 2018, with the US and Canada driving the growth at the back of their robust automotive and medical industries. The importance of isoprene in these high ticket industries cannot be negated. The largest tyre maker in the world, Bridgestone, has in 2017 led in developing synthetic IR through a molecular structure control utilising a new polymerisation catalyst. The proprietary catalyst, called Gadolinium (Gd), features a structure designed to enable it to be utilised to control IR molecular structure at temperatures above 40°C, the range commonly used in manufacturing processes. According to Bridgestone, the newly synthesised IR has the potential to contribute to the development of next-generation rubber with performance surpassing that of NR. Moreover, the IR can be created using isoprene derived from renewable biomass and is therefore anticipated to be a sustainable material. The Tokyo-headquartered tyre maker, through its operations in the US, Bridgestone Americas, plans to further the development of IR to practical application and determine how to secure a stable supply of isoprene with the aim of realising practical application in the 2020s. Meanwhile, Colorado-based chemicals company Gevo has recently unveiled its breakthrough development of renewable isoprene. The proprietary chemical-based catalytic process converts low-value fusel oils – a mixture of alcohols that are byproducts from fermentation processes such as ethanol production – into renewable isoprene.
Gevo has developed a method to convert low-value fusel oils into renewable isoprene
This new development is anticipated to provide commercially viable isoprene that is renewable, lowcarbon, and low-cost. Gevo added that fermentation processes were always deemed to be too expensive to make isoprene directly, and its technology can become a game changer. Making ‘peace’ in the US rubber sector with plants Ongoing research to fine tune the guayule plant to become a viable rubber alternative has put the US on the map of renewable materials frontrunners. Guayule is a woody desert shrub cultivated in the south western US, and it has been tapped as a source of natural rubber latex, organic resins, and high-energy biofuel feedstock. In a latest development, a team of scientists has come up with an improved guayule for rubber production. The project, led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist Colleen McMahan and her colleagues: molecular biologists Grisel Ponciano, Niu Dong, and Dante Placido and technician Trinh
Guayule plants in an ARS greenhouse
5 JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2019
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