The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has begun using a next-generation silica derived from rice husk ash to increase the fuel-efficiency of its tires.

 For over a decade, Goodyear researchers worked with PPG Industries to examine the effects of chemically treated silica on tire performance, while trying to further improve rolling resistance without have a detrimental effect on traction in wet conditions.

It said that between 700 million and 800 million tons of rice is harvested each year. About 20 percent of a rice kernel is the inedible husk, which can be burnt to generate electricity, producing ash that is rich in silica. Silica is used as a reinforcing agent in tire tread compounds. It lowers rolling resistance and, in turn, improves a car's fuel economy. Moreover, the next-generation silica has been shown to have processing advantages that also benefit the environment. It's easy to mix into various compounds, which means that factories can consume less energy in the tire production process and by doing so they also lessen the quantity of harmful emissions.

"While no one source of these new sources of silica are able to fulfill our total demand, they each play an important part in our materials line-up as we strive to create more environmentally friendly tires," said Dave Zanzig, Goodyear's director of global material science.

This new silica will be first used in the Goodyear EfficientGrip SUV tire, which is being launched this month in Latin America.

Goodyear is one of the world's largest tire companies, which employs approximately 67,000 people and manufactures its products in 50 facilities in 22 countries around the world.

July 16, 2015 Driving photo: Profimedia

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