The Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME, Münster branch), the Institute for Plant Biology and Biotechnology of the University of Münster, and the Tire Division of Continental in Hanover are successfully collaborating on a project entitled "RUBIN – Industrial Emergence of Natural Rubber from Dandelion". The leading scientists in the project have now been awarded the prestigious Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize for their research on the Russian dandelion and the development of car tire prototypes based on dandelion rubber. The award was presented yesterday in Wiesbaden, Germany, to Prof. Dirk Prüfer and Dr. Christian Schulze Gronover (IME and Institute of Plant Biology and Biotechnology), and Dr. Carla Recker (Continental). "The objective of this joint project is to develop a procedure for the industrial use of dandelion as a source of rubber. In agricultural terms, it is an undemanding plant, even in the northern hemisphere, and can be cultivated on land not suitable for food production. This means that rubber production is conceivable near our tire factories, for instance, and the significantly shorter transport routes would also reduce CO2 emissions," comments Dr. Carla Recker, who heads the Continental team involved in the development of this promising material.
"During our research, we have discovered which genes promote rubber production and which ones hinder it. We were able to use this knowledge to develop plants that produce twice as much natural rubber. We also managed to extract several kilos of dandelion rubber with a small pilot system. This opened up prospects in terms of scaling up industrial production to the level of tons," said Prüfer and Schulze Gronover at the award ceremony. "We are honored to receive this prestigious award for our joint project," added Dr. Carla Recker. "It will make tire production even more environmentally friendly, without compromising our high quality standards or losing out on performance."
With the first test tires having already been tested under both summer and winter conditions, the project is running very successfully so far. Tires made from dandelion rubber show an equivalent property profile when compared with tires made from conventional natural rubber from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Continental intends to launch series production of tires made from dandelion rubber in five to ten years. Further information about the project is available at www.taraxagum.de.
Fraunhofer has been presenting annual awards for outstanding scientific achievements since 1978. The Joseph von Fraunhofer Prizes go to researchers who solve application related problems. In 2015 three Joseph von Fraunhofer Prizes were awarded. The two other awards went to the Fraunhofer IWS in Dresden and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen. The scientific prize has been awarded since 1978 and commemorates Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787 – 1824), an optician and physicist, who used the results of precise scientific work to develop innovative products.