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Issue 02/2019

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  • Bioplastics
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Highlights: Thermoforming Building & Construction Basics: Biobased Packaging

Materials Advances in

Materials Advances in the development of dandelion rubber T he LFL Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture (Freising, Germany), HOLMER Maschinenbau (Schierling, Germany) and the tyre manufacturer Continental Reifen Deutschland GmbH are jointly developing a root harvester for the Russian dandelion. The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) supports the work under the Renewable Resources Promotion Programme. The Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture contributes its experience in the field of root harvesting of special crops, including horseradish, gentian and valerian, to the project. The company Holmer Maschinenbau in turn is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sugar beet harvesting technology. Continental Reifen Deutschland GmbH, as part of the Tyres Division of Continental AG, has 24 production and development sites worldwide. The division is one of the technology leaders in the field of tyre production and offers a wide range of products for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and two-wheelers. Natural rubber is a very elastic biopolymer that, until today, cannot be replaced in many applications. The demand for natural rubber is increasing worldwide, while the main supplier, the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis, is only growing in a narrow geographical belt around the equator. Researchers and companies in various countries are therefore looking for alternatives. In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture - BMEL has been funding work on the Russian dandelion since 2011. The TAKOWIND I and II projects were or are concerned with breeding optimization, cultivation and the products rubber and latex that can be extracted from the plant root. In the recently started TAKOROD project, the focus is now on harvesting technology, as cultivation trials have already shown that conventional machines cannot optimally clear the roots of this plant. The three partners hope to change this by the end of the TAKOROD project in 2022. This development is so important, as Continental (Hanover Germany), technology company and manufacturer of premium tyres, needs an efficient harvesting process for the test cultures of the Taraxagum ® Lab Anklam, Germany. This research laboratory was officially inaugurated and presented it to the public in December of last year. After the ground-breaking ceremony in November 2017, the building covering an area of 30,000 m² is ready for occupation just one year later and has therefore been completed on schedule. It is set as base for future research on farming and the extraction process of Russian dandelion as an alternative raw material source to the rubber tree in the tropics. In case of positive test results, the tyre manufacturer is planning to introduce the raw material into serial production within ten years, in order to obtain an increasing proportion of its natural rubber demand from the dandelion plant. At the opening, Nikolai Setzer, member of the Executive Board of Continental AG and head of the Tyre division, said, 20 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/19] Vol. 14

Materials Holmer harvesting machines for sugar beet “We are proud to inaugurate this lighthouse project today. We are the first tyre manufacturer in the world to invest such a significant amount in industrializing dandelion rubber. We see Russian dandelion as an important alternative and complementary to conventional natural rubber from hevea brasiliensis allowing us to meet rising global demand in an environmentally compatible and reliable way.” Additionally, the investment in the new research laboratory is another technological milestone on the road to implement the Vision 2025 Continental has developed for its tyre business. “As part of our Vision 2025 strategy, we have invested far more than € 2 billion in production, research, and development as well as in jobs and new products worldwide since 2011. 2018, Anklam now features prominently in the series of unique projects in Europe, America, and Asia,” highlighted Setzer. “We have been working to understand the molecular basis of the rubber biosynthesis in the dandelion plant for many years. This biological understanding has now brought industrial use within reach. With the new test laboratory, Continental has broken new ground that makes this transfer concept highly visible,” emphasized Dirk Prüfer, Professor of Plant Biotechnology at the University of Münster and site director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME, Münster branch. Continental had presented the plans for the laboratory in August 2016 and began construction in Anklam in November 2017. The tyre manufacturer has been conducting research into replacing natural rubber from the tropics with plants which can be grown at moderate climates since 2011 in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute IME in Münster, the Julius Kühn-Institute in Quedlinburg, the plant breeder ESKUSA in Parkstetten and other partners in various research projects with support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as well as the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The first sample of a premium winter tyre featuring a tread made from pure dandelion rubber was brought onto the road in 2014. The first truck tyre with a tread made from Taraxagum then followed at International Automobile Fair (IAA) 2016. MT | | | Info See a video-clip at: Birth of the first Taraxagum tyre Winter-testing of Taraxagum tyres in Finland (these photos: Continental - from video clip) bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/19] Vol. 14 21

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