Silica reinforced natural rubber: compatibilization through functionalities grafted onto natural rubber

Objective

This research focuses on the utilization of modified natural rubbers (NRs), i.e. maleated, epoxidized natural rubbers and graft copolymer of natural rubber and poly(methyl methacrylate), in order to enhance the compatibility between silica and NR, which would for reinforcement of tire treads.

Benefit

NR represents >40% of the world rubber consumption, and the market share tends to increase even. The combination of silica technology with NR will produce more environmentally-friendly tires. NR is one of the most ideal examples of sustainable energy generation, where CO2 is taken from the air in vast areas of the world to produce this natural polymer, and the trees after their service life are used for furniture production.

Comparison of tire performances using different types of rubbers and fillers

Proposed reactions/interactions of silanized and functionalized silica-filled NR systems

Challenges

1. Silane coupling agents are most commonly used today, since they are able to improve rubber processibility and overall properties of silica-filled rubber products. Replacement by modified NRs can be considered looking for optimum properties without the need to use coupling agent.

2. The chemical/physical interactions occurring in silica-filled modified NRs do influence the rubber properties. The challenge is to explore characterization techniques which characterize the interaction or reaction between silica and rubber for further development of this technology.

For more information regarding this project, contact W. Kaewsakul MSc