The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is to enable the further development of sustainable mobility by developing a new, disruptive class of renewable materials for low-rolling resistance tire tread rubber compound applications. The company will be active not only in materials development and sales, but also in the exploration of new and valuable application areas for energy-efficient renewable materials. The initial target application area is the material used in low-rolling resistance tread compounds for tires currently using petroleum-derived materials, a $5 B market.
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will be directed to the technical feasibility of a critical enabling technology supporting the use of renewable elastomers in low-rolling resistance tire applications. Specifically, the innovation will focus on latex-phase nano-scale reinforcement of natural rubber using novel functional silica-based materials. The technical hurdles include translation of the technology from spin-coating of polytetrafluoroethylene nanoemulsion thin films to bulk solids formation from a natural rubber latex. These are significant challenges because the formation mechanisms, required functional groups, and end-use performance requirements are significantly different. Specific challenges include creation of novel functional silica-based materials; uniform dispersion of the materials in a natural rubber (NR) latex; interactions between the material and the phospholipid of the NR latex particle surface; the chemistry and concentration of the functionalization; characterization of the resulting composite polymer and its microstructure; and adaptation and processing of the innovative polymer into a vulcanized rubber tire tread compound with the desired properties.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.