Hamilton, Ontario – A team of chemists at Canada’s McMaster University has discovered an innovative way to break down and dissolve the rubber used in tires.
The process could lead to new recycling methods that have so far proven to be expensive, difficult and largely inefficient, said McMaster in a news report 13 Jan.
In a paper published by the journal Green Chemistry, Michael Brook, lead author and a professor in the department of chemistry & chemical biology at McMaster said the newly developed process efficiently breaks down the polymeric oils by breaking the sulphur-to-sulphur bond in tire rubber.
“The chemistry of the tire is very complex and does not lend itself to degradation – for good reason… The properties that make tires so durable and stable on the road also make them exceptionally difficult to break down and recycle,” he said.
Brook likened the structure to a piece of fishnet.
“We have found a way to cut all the horizontal lines so instead of having a net, you now have a large number of ropes, which can be isolated and reprocessed much more easily,” he explained.
According to the researchers, the new method could help to eliminate and prevent the major environmental concerns and dangers posed by stockpiled tires.
While promising, researchers cautioned that the new method had some limitations as it was expensive for industrial applications.
“We’re working on it, but this is the first major step. This process closes the loop on automotive rubber, allowing old tires to be converted into new products,” Brook added.