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Making rubber from dandelions

Making rubber from dandelions

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Many plants have latex, I would think it would work equally well. Milkweed, Jackfruit, Burdock, nettles, thistle, just to name the ones I can immediately recall. The articles' figures for yield seem a bit optimistic.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Is this a leftover from Woodstock?

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Making rubber from dandelions

(OP)
More interesting is that the plants can also be eaten if one were hungry enough.

So natural rubber can be grown in more places, and possibly replace synthetic rubber (probally not). But it reduces the dependice on tropical land for supporting the modern world.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Dandelion greens arecommon in slads, and are regularly farmed in northern Europe. It also makes a really crappy wine.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

I like arugula better.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

IIRC, Edison and Ford used goldenrod-derived rubber tires during one of their many camping tours of the US, roughly 100 years ago. I don't recall whether Firestone went along on that one or not.

"weeds into rubber" isn't exactly new.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

(OP)
The world of modern medicine is full of discoveries that at one time were folk medicine.

The only questions left here is if it is cheeper to produce rubber from dandelions? How do you harvest them and how fast can you make a crop out of them?

The existing process involves growing a tree, then harvesting it.

I would assume with dandelions the plant to harvest time would be much less, and the crops can be rotated from year to year. So it appears to be a process that has a quicker expantion capability to better deal with changes in demand.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

While time-to-first-harvest for dandelions is undoubtedly faster, my understanding is that the trees can be tapped for rubber many, many times. Productive life is ~25 years after maturity, and each tree is tapped every few days. Something like 3,000 harvests per tree.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Quote:

to breed a type of dandelion native to Kazakhstan whose taproot yields a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it.

And they could have some interesting modifications. For instance, German researchers have bred the plants to grow to up to a foot (30 cm) in height, dwarfing many of their backyard cousins.

Yes. Let's introduce genetically modified non-native plants on a massive scale. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

There are also biological routes to making cis-isoprene which involve microorganisms instead of plants or trees. None of them are commercial yet as far as I know.

They "harvest" the rubber trees at the end of their service life and make cheap furniture from them, but as noted the rubber is produced by tapping live trees and collecting the latex.

I was surprised to read on Wikipedia that natural rubber production is still about 40% of total rubber production, so I did some digging and the numbers are more or less accurate. I would have thought that SBR would have dwarfed it completely, but there you go- it's still cheap enough and the properties are great for some applications.

Where we need a bit of help is with the disposal of the used tires. They burn cleanly when burned in a properly designed combustor and have an incredibly high energy content, and are far cleaner as a fuel source than most coals. But because everybody has seen at least TV images of smoky, sooty burning tires (which is more pyrolysis than combustion), people think they are a dirty fuel and won't permit them to be burned in many jurisdictions. So instead, they sit in piles and burn by accident, creating major environmental impact even after the firefighters manage to put them out which is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. There are some re-use options (such as the use of recycled rubber crumb in asphalt etc.), and some people have tried to pyrolyze them to make liquid fuels, but there are still mountains of used tires to be found.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

The mountains of tires have been rapidly depleting in Texas - some for crumb rubber in asphalt, some other small uses - but most of them are going into the cement kilns as fuel.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Great to hear that TomDOT- that's exactly where they should be going in my opinion. That's where most of the chlorinated waste should be going too.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Hm, I really don't like having increased chlorides in concrete due to corrosion issues.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

...but they do that here in northern climes already to improve the freeze tolerance. Guess there's plenty of Cl- to worry about already from road salt so what's a little more?

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Yeah, the concrete guys here had a presentation on chlorides for freeze resistance - they don't think the corrosion tradeoff is generally worthwhile in our environment. Entrained air microbubbles was the preferred solution. But it's certainly not a settled subject, and we have less freeze/thaw and less road salt than most.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

(OP)
I have heard where used tires were ground up and mixed with coal for power production (and given renewable tax credits, which I question).
Old tires aren't just used for door mats any more.

Taping a tree is not harvesting the latex? Since when is cutting down a plant the only way to harvest a crop? You don't cut down nut trees to harvest the nuts do you.

I have to admit I haven't taped very many trees, and I am sure there is an art that works best. However how many years does it take to grow a tree to harvest age?

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Cranky, usually about 7 years for a rubber tree to be ready for first harvest, then about 25 years of useful life.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

(OP)
I see it as rubber trees don't grow everywhere, but dandelions do seem to grow in more places so it should allow for more production of natural rubber. Also I would think dandelions would be easer to automate the production and latex extraction which would make natural rubber less expencive. Sorry for the poor people taping trees now.

The next question would be if there would be quality differences, like there is between natural rubber and man-made rubber (or natural and natural rubbers).

I would also think with dandelions that crop rotation would be possible, allowing a farmer to change to a crop that maybe more needed next year.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

"bred the plants to grow to up to a foot (30 cm) in height"

Yawn. Anyone else here from the Midwest US? Dandelions over a foot in height with a taproot 1-1/2 times that is the norm, rather than the exception. You may have to go outside of the tightly controlled environment of the pristine suburban lawn to find them, but they're everywhere. Meadows, river banks, roadside ditches, anywhere that is not sprayed.

As long as we're going to do GMO voodoo on them, let's request the blossom be replaced by an orchid-like flower, maybe bear some variety of delicious fruit or nut, and emit Chanel No. 5 when picked.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Something tells me that if you plant a field full of GMO super dandelions, you'll have a hard time getting rid of them.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

(OP)
If we do go with GMO, we might want to think about making them seedless.

It is true that dandelions do grow over a foot tall in the midwest US (or what I call the midwest), but we do have to understand they are not native to the US, and have very few natural controls. So it should go without saying that a roundup proof dandelion would be a concern to other farmers who use roundup to kill dandelions.

I always hated having these and other weeds shorting out the electric fence when I was growing up. And the cows would not eat them.

Which brings up the question of how to dig up the tap root? I would assume something simular to potatoes.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

We grow a lot of sugar beets and potatoes here, too. A beet lifter would work extremely well, or some modification thereof. They are naturally some hardy devils, seems like common sense to find a practical use for them. Soil quality is a non-issue, they seem to grow better the poorer the soil is.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Ornerynorsk, your suggestion reminds me of the creation (off license) that got the Time Bandits sacked. They were assigned undergrowth, shrubbery etc., but one of them made a tree, 500 feet tall, bright pink and which smelled awful. The Supreme Being sent them packing, which us what we should do with anybody who wants to make super dandelions....

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

molten, agreed. My previous post was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

Instead of digging up the tap roots, might just collect the tops and let the leaves resprout. Should take less energy and speed up harvests. Might manage a monthly harvest, with no replanting.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

(OP)
I can see a need to study the best heigth in which to cut the weeds. Harvesting should be easy, just add the bagger on your lawn tractor.

Then maybe a press to extract the liquids?

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

I assumed the useable stuff comes from the root (admittedly did not read the article until now, which confirms this.)

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

As a kid we used to goof around with the 'milk' from the flower stem which I'd guess is the same stuff they're interested in in the root.

YOu'd hope they'd have considered whether harvesting this was an option, my guess is not as beneficial as the root but who knows.

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RE: Making rubber from dandelions

The leaves, stems and flowers have quite a bit of latex.

*shrug* If they want to deal with more expensive machinery, slower growing cycles and more contamination (dirt) - go with roots too.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

(OP)
I agree that working in air is much easer than digging in dirt.

I really think there should be more interest in dandelions because they grow in more places than rubber trees do. But where the rubber trees grow the labor should be cheeper. The only thing that can bring down the cost of rubber production is machines.

If free trade remains like it is, than dandelions probally won't mature as a crop. However if free trade, or even wars, than it might become worthwhile.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

We've already had (at least) one war over rubber trees, I'd hate to see one over dandelions.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

It may not make economic sense now, but the process needs to be developed. If demand (even short term, or local) outgrows supply for whatever reason, the immediate availability (compared to planting more rubber trees) of the crop should make it commercially viable.

RE: Making rubber from dandelions

If this were discovered earlier, we could have lived with one less really bad Frank Sinatra song.

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