Milan – Bridgestone Americas Inc. is forming a strategic partnership with Italian polymer producer Versalis SpA to develop technology to commercialize guayule in the agricultural, sustainable rubber and renewable chemical sectors.
The partnership combines Bridgestone's leadership in guayule agricultural and production technologies with Versalis' expertise in commercial-scale process engineering and market development for renewables, Bridgestone said.
This partnership brings together the two largest guayule research projects globally under common management, the tire maker said.
Under this agreement, Bridgestone and Versalis will work together to create a commercially sound technology package for guayule. The two companies will also make their joint technology available to industrial partners willing to cooperate in maximizing the value of guayule products, it said.
Bridgestone and Versalis will focus on developing proprietary, highly productive varieties of guayule using the latest genetic technologies, according to Bridgestone.
"The associated growing protocols developed in line with this agreement may position guayule as an attractive and profitable coup for independent growers in appropriate regions," the tire maker said.
The partners will use the resources of the Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center (BPRC) in Mesa, Arizona — which Bridgestone dedicated in September 2014 — for developing the technology for optimizing guayule process technologies.
Versalis, for its part, will lead product development for both guayule rubber and non-rubber components, Bridgestone said. Resin research will include market applications for adhesives and wood protection, whereas bagasse is being developed as a feedstock for industrial sugars suitable for biofuels and chemical precursors, it said.
"Every collaboration, including this latest one with Versalis, brings us closer to our goal of developing new, domestic and sustainable sources for natural rubber that ultimately benefit our customers and our natural environment through more sustainable rubber products," said Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer, Bridgestone Americas.
"This work is one of many ways we are using innovation to achieve our long-term vision of manufacturing products from raw materials that are fully renewable and sustainable by 2050 and beyond."
Milan, Italy-based Versalis and Pirelli Tyre SpA conducted joint research in 2013-16 into the use of guayule-based NR in tire production, a project that resulted in Pirelli's building and testing ultra-high-performance tires in 2015 made with rubber derived from guayule.