Dearborn, Michigan, May 10th, 2011: Alan Mullaly and his research group at Ford Motor Company have teamed up with Ohio State University to turn dandelion weeds into a versatile multi-use material for it’s interior trims and accessories.
“We’re always looking for new sustainable materials to use in our vehicles that have a smaller carbon footprint to produce and can be grown locally,” said Angela Harris, Ford research engineer. “Synthetic rubber is not a sustainable resource, so we want to minimize its use in our vehicles when possible. Dandelions have the potential to serve as a great natural alternative to synthetic rubber in our products.”
Not all dandelions are created equal, meaning not all can be used as a sustainable resource for rubber. The only presently known suitable species for this project is the Russian dandelion, Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS)(sorry Phoenix Valley gardeners), which is being grown at The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). A milky-white substance that seeps from the roots of this species of dandelion is used to produce the rubber.
“Managing weed problems is essential to developing TKS as a commercially viable domestic source of natural rubber in the U.S.,” said Bill Ravlin, associate director of OARDC.
Ford could potentially use the substance as a plastics modifier, to help improve the impact strength of plastics. The material might then be used in places such as cup holders, floor mats and interior trim.
Phoenix Arizona auto and environmental enthusiasts can view these innovative materials on new Ford production models in the coming years, as well as on concept vehicles which may be making an appearance at this year at the Arizona International Auto show, taking place this November at the Phoenix Arizona Convention Center. There is also a good chance that Ford will be featuring this new area of material research as part of one or more concept designs presented at the LA International Auto Show (a short drive from Phoenix Arizona) this November.