Researchers are working constantly to find more sustainable means of
producing materials that the average person relies on every day. The projects
that get the most press are the ones that have to do with green energy.
Recently, reports have come out that the temperature of the Earth is increasing
even faster than scientists had initially predicted. This has led to renewed
interest in topics like solar power and wind power. But the way that people
harness energy isn't the only concern, though it has the highest profile. Take
for example the tires on a car.
Most tires that are widely available are composed mostly of synthetic
rubber. The problem with that is the fact that synthetic rubbers are petroleum
based, just like plastics. Take into consideration how much rubber and plastic
is used on an annual basis and it's easy to see why the dependency on petroleum
makes people so uneasy. It is costly and pumps millions of tons of pollution
into the atmosphere constantly. But researchers in the southwest United States
may be onto something that could potentially change the way we source our
rubber. Though they are still in the polymer
testing stages, there is hope that the desert plant guayule may produce suitable
biopolymers that will create natural rubber to replace synthetic rubbers and
current natural rubbers that are tropical based.
Guayule, which grows in Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico, has a
curious history. Between the 1920s and the 1940s, the plant drew intense interest
as a rubber alternative when blight decimated Brazilian sources. Similarly, it
was used to create latex during a brief period in World War II when America was
cut off from Malaysia, where it got much of its latex. Now, with the focus on
finding sustainable means of production, researchers have turned their
attention back to the plant as a source of useful polymers.
Researchers believe that after successful polymer testing, guayule will
be considered a serious source for natural rubber polymers. It's greener and it
doesn't compete for resources with local food crops. The hope is that once
research proves that the plant has major potential, that then steps can be
taken to turn a strain of guayule into an industrial crop that is grown and
harvested specifically for its natural rubber polymers. This crop of guayule
would be developed in such a way that it would constantly produce tire-grade
Is this relatively unknown desert plant one of the keys to sustainable
development? It could very well be.
Labels: Polymer Testing