Dutch researchers are receiving funding from the European Union and the Dutch province of Gelderland to make rubber from dandelions. Natural rubber could be replaced with this new type of rubber. Primeval forests are being felled for natural rubber and rubber production itself pollutes the soil, air and water.
An earlier study by the Dutch Wageningen University and Research and the Keygene company revealed that the Russian dandelion could be an alternative to the rubber tree. More research is needed to be able to start producing this rubber.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the province of Gelderland are consequently financing the new research to the tune of €530,000. It is estimated that the research will cost over €1.3 million.
There are two types of rubber: Natural rubber and synthetic rubber. Both have disadvantages. Natural rubber is made from the sap of the rubber tree. It grows in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other countries. Rainforest is cut down in order to plant rubber trees. Synthetic rubber is made from raw materials derived from petroleum, a fossil fuel, and as such causes a lot of pollution.
The consortium, which comprises Barinvest, Keygene and the Future Materials Centre, is developing an alternative based on dandelions. Dandelions contain a small amount of the latex needed to make rubber. The researchers extract this substance from the dandelions and are able to make rubber from it.
The consortium cross-cultivate the Russian dandelion with the Dutch dandelion. It hopes to eventually harvest 750 kilos of rubber per hectare. The Dutch dandelion is larger than the Russian dandelion but has no latex in its roots. The researchers will cross-cultivate the two species in order to exploit both qualities.
They have already succeeded in extracting rubber from the roots of the flowers. But producing rubber from dandelions on a large scale is very tricky. The consortium is now working on a way to simplify this process. Moreover, more research is needed to turn it into a profitable product.
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