Porto Alegre, Brazil – Tire retreading major Vipal Rubber is researching the feasibility of using rice-husk residue as a raw material for the rubber industry, the Brazilian company has announced.
The work, said Vipal, is being carried out in partnership with the University of Caxias do Sul in Brazil, and Lodz Poland University of Technology.
Leftover husk from rice production is used as fuel for thermoelectric power plants, noted Suélen Moresco, a materials and chemistry engineer on the Vipal research team.
From this energy-generation, there is still the ashes from the burning of the residue,” said Moresco, explaining that the treatment of this by-product is the focus of the Vipal study.
“In addition to providing an appropriate destination for the waste, one of the advantages of using rice-husk ash, is to diversify the raw materials within the rubber chain,” she added.
The R&D effort has already led to the development of a new treatment process, for which Vipal and the participating universities have filed a patent application.
The project is currently at the internal lab validation stage, in advance of progressing to factory tests, according to the Brazilian company.
Developing new, more sustainable materials and products requires a “long-term” effort, commented Rodemir Conte, product and process engineering manager at Vipal Rubber.
ipal, he stated, “invests a lot in research and this keeps it strong… in a market that needs this renovation and alternatives that reduce environmental impacts.”
For his part, Frederico Schmidt, general manager of Vipal in Europe, noted that customers in markets such as Spain, France, Germany “are increasingly adopting measures that take into account the circular economy.”
Vipal has three distribution centres in Europe - Valencia (Spain), Felixstowe (UK), and Nova Gorica (Slovenia). To meet the growth in the European market, the company has also dedicated one of its four plants exclusively for exports.
With around 3,000 employees, Vipal claims to be one of the world’s largest tire retreading companies, operating four factories with an installed capacity of over 19 kilotonnes per month.
The company has 13 distribution centres worldwide, offering products for retreading and repairing all types of tires. It also supplies rubber compounds, flooring and industrial products and manufactures machinery for tire retreading and agriculture.