Cologne, Germany -- Rhodia has introduced a new range of high-surface area silica materials that it claims can improve rolling resistance by 10 percent with no loss in wet grip or wear rate.
The new range was developed two years ago, in partnership with a leading tyre maker, which had exclusive rights to the material for a period. The range, dubbed Zeosil Premium, is now available to the general market. Rhodia has commercial quantities available immediately from its factory located outside Lyons.
At the launch of the Zeosil Premium family, Rhodia offers a '200 MP' grade, a micropearl silica with a specific surface of 200m2/g. Rhodia Silcea is working on other specific surfaces, which will further extend the performance of this new range.
Although the principle behind the innovation is relatively simple, the practicalities of reliably producing accurately sized particles and agglomerates presented significant technical challenges, said Eric Noyrez, president of Rhodia Silica, speaking exclusively to ERJ at the Tire Technology event in Cologne.
He said the company has tuned the size of the agglomerates to the point where there is good interaction between the rubber and the filler, and the agglomerates are spaced further apart, permitting more rubber molecules to interact with the silica agglmerates. The result is stronger rubber-filler interactions. This, in turn extends the classic triangle of wear - wet grip and rolling resistansce still further, said Noyrez.
Noyrez said no tyres are on the market using this technology, but he expected that some product might undergo homologation tests in the near future. He declined to name Rhodia's technology partner in the project.
Noyrez said the company has converted one line at its plant in Lyons to the new technology, but the new factory going up in Qingdao will be built to take advantage of the new technology as soon as demand permits.
Noyrez added that the new material is priced 30 to 40 percent more expensive than the company's existing HD silica materials, but as volume increases, this price might decline somewhat.