Researchers at DuPont have developed a rubber composite which they claim will lead to lighter, safer and more durable tyres.
DuPont’s patented technology integrates its Kevlar engineering fibres into the rubber compound of vehicle tyres. The result, the Kevlar Elastomeric Composite, is under test for cars and other vehicles. Its first application is in motorcycle tyres manufactured by Pirelli.
The technology applies established short fibre composite technology to elastomerics.
The resultant elastomeric composite is claimed by the researchers to offer a commercially viable material with improved thermal performance, better cut and tear resistance, improved wear and improved compressive strength.
Until now Kevlar has been used as a low-weight high-strength reinforcement material, but its role has been confined to the substitution of heavy steel bracing and beading elements.
`The breakthrough lies in the ability to produce viable fibre composites with elastomeric matrices. Before, the practical application of short fibre technology was restricted to rigid composite structures,’ said Heike van de Kerkhof, DuPont European tyre marketing manager.
DuPont says the development is one of several technical breakthroughs which will offer business opportunities in the tyre industry. It is also working with Dunlop in Germany on lightweight tyres.
When DuPont developed Kevlar in the 1950s it had the huge vehicle tyre market in mind. The engineering fibre, offering strength and light weight, was viewed as ideal for tyre applications.
But the industry, locked into conventional materials and processes, was slow to take up the fibres and Kevlar developed its markets elsewhere.
`We are now seeing renewed interest and demand for fibre variants specially engineered for the reinforcement of specialised tyres such as Formula One and rally tyres, low-profile fat tyres and the latest breed of ultra lightweight tyres,’ said Reiner Nassauer, DuPont engineering fibres European business manager.