Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Breakthrough in Tyre Technology Leaves the Door Open to Complete Recycling

Canadian Scientists Say This Could Solve an Old Problem
Shipping News Feature

CANADA – WORLDWIDE – Whilst the UK government still considers a formal ban on tyres over 10 years old, and has advised against the use of these on the front axles of commercial vehicles in its latest guide to roadworthiness, the problem of recycling them remains.

Now news comes from Canada that scientists working at McMaster University, a public research facility in Hamilton, Ontario have found a method to dissolve the rubber in tyres, always regarded as literally an almost insoluble problem, and thereby keeping them from going to landfill.

Tyres have always been an environmental problem, from mosquitoes breeding prolifically in the empty casings, to chemicals leeching into the ground as they slowly decompose, and of course the hazard of fire on tyre dumps, like the blaze which burned out of control for weeks in an Ontario store which held 14 million scrap tyres, polluting the local atmosphere.

The recent study’s lead author, and a professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at McMaster, Michael Brook, said that stores of this size were simply due to the problems associated with disposal, saying:

"Why do people collect tyres in that size? It's because there's no really good way to deal with them. A small proportion of tyres are ground up to use in playgrounds or asphalt. The idea that you make three billion tyres last year and put them in a landfill after a single use, to me, it just doesn't make any sense.

"A tyre is incredibly well made, at the end we want to turn that tyre back into something else, either make a new tyre or make a new material, even if it's not quite as high quality, but not just go from my car to a landfill, which is mostly what's happening now."

The new discovery came about as a side product of something the team was working on to find new compounds which would produce silicones, when they tried the process on the rubber used in tyres, and found it successfully broke down the sulphur-to-sulphur bonds contained in the material.

Brook said the chemical used cuts through the molecular structure of the tyre rubber, like a pair of scissors cutting a line in mesh and leaving a series of ropes or cords. These can then be processed whilst the residue is an oil, which can also be processed, plus the steel and polyester components from the tyre wall, both of which can be reused.

Now the question for the researchers is what properties can be derived from the molecularly altered rubber and to what use can products from this be put?