ERJ staff report (DS)
Beijing -- China is to investigate the use of the tree species, Eucommia ulmoides, as a potential source of rubber. The leaves of the Eucommia ulmoides tree produce a latex-like material when they are torn. This is isoprene, but not the same material to come from a natural rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. Instead Eucommia produces the form of polyisoprene, known as Gutta Percha or trans-polyisoprene.
The Eucommia tree is well known in Chinese traditional medicine, where the bark is highly prized as a treatment for back pain and aching knees.
Conventional natural rubber, known as cis-polyisoprene is more elastic and more resilient than Gutta-Percha, but it is possible to use Gutta-Percha in rubber applications. Fan Rende, head of the CRIA said the organisation is researching ways to use Gutta-Percha to overcome China's shortage of natural rubber.
In 2010 the CRIA set up a working committee and in March 2011 began planting Eucommia ulmoides and extracting the latex material from the leaves. Fan Rende said this should be extended to an industrial process as soon as possible and has the potential to form a large Eucommia bio-industry market, capable of generating several hundred billion dollars for China's output value.
He was quoted on the CRIA website saying, "I believe that after 10 years of hard work, strong government support, through the joint efforts of related industries, China's production capacity of gutta percha is possible to achieve 60 million tons, complete natural rubber after 60 years of efforts to achieve the target of 60 million tons."
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Interview with Fan Rende from CRIA (Chinese language)
Above interview auto-translated from Chinese language