Eco-Friendly Rubber Kumhos Groundbreaking Use of Rice By-Products

Vinodhini Harish

21 May 2024

Eco-friendly processes and products are appreciated the most, as they are free from harmful toxins, they are beneficial for human health. These processes redefined mankind’s efforts to preserve Mother Nature. Unless you are living in caves, you must have come across news about sectors involving renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and environmental protection. There is also a massive shift in consumer behaviour towards utilizing eco-friendly products and services. In this article, we have discussed sustainable synthetic rubber and how the manufacturing process stands out. If you liked what is said till now, you should continue reading. Let’s begin.

Synthetic rubber is highly utilized across automotive, construction, industrial and other minor industries. The market size of synthetic rubber in Asia-Pacific was ai USD 16.64 billion in 2023 and it is expected to grow steadily due to the growing demand for industrial rubber goods production that includes conveyor belts, industrial mats, gloves, wires and cables. The growth is also due to growing demand for non-tire segments such as automotive, industrial rubber goods, footwear and others. Therefore countries are focusing on developing sustainable rubber production practices.

Considering the traditional production practices of synthetic rubber, the production relies heavily on petroleum-based raw materials, which leads to significant greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution. The sustainable alternatives potentially minimize the impacts. Additionally, petroleum is a finite resource, therefore the countries are looking for ways to include renewable and recyclable materials in rubber production.

Kumho has developed a sustainable rubber compound from a rice mill by-product.

Kumho Petrochemicals is producing silica from rice bran extracts. This significant innovation in the tire industry reflects their commitment to bringing more sustainable and eco-friendly products and practices. Considering the global rise in demand for industrial applications such as machinery equipment, construction applications, and so on, it is crucial to bring sustainability and environmentally friendliness to production procedures and obtain resources.
 
The eco-friendly silica developed by the organization is used for improving the fuel efficiency, braking power and wear resistance of synthetic rubber for tyres.

Benefits of eco-friendly silica:

The eco-friendly silica is used for improving the fuel efficiency, braking power and wear resistance of synthetic rubber for tyres. Although the product is sustainable and environmentally friendly, it doesn’t compromise the quality of the product.

The rubber compound material is a high-performance material and exhibits higher dispersion properties within the rubber matrix. Proper dispersion is a crucial property of the composite which makes the compound to be supplied to major domestic and foreign tire and shoe manufacturers.

The resource is available in abundance and is an agricultural by-product that is generated in large quantities during rice milling. Utilizing the rice husk ash for the production of the rubber compound helps in reducing agricultural waste and transforming it into a valuable resource. Likewise, farmers and rice millers can potentially benefit from selling the rice husk ash economically and creating an additional revenue stream for the farmers.

The traditional method of silica production from sand mining is highly energy-sensitive and environmentally detrimental, thereby using RHA silica reduces the need for sand mining, conserves natural resources and lowers the carbon footprint of the production processes.

How has the company focused on further development?

Looking back, the company has made a series of efforts before coming to this step. Previously, the company utilized quartz grains that consumed much energy for processing silica sand. However, this innovation which involves using rice bran is highly energy efficient and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by up to 70% compared to the previous method.

The production of eco-friendly silica has led to the growth of broader implications for the industry. Since there is a significant growth in the number of eco-conscious consumers, the company presents their products with greater value in the market.

Using the innovation, the company has disclosed their plan to double the production of synthetic rubber production from 63,000 tonnes to 123,000 tonnes very soon.

What are the possibilities?

Enhancement of material properties:

Several companies have been involved in research and development post this innovation. It is expected that the research could even lead to more optimized formulations including some developments and improvements in the mechanical properties, the durability and performance of the rubber composites.  

With the advent of nano-technology and its capability of enhancing the properties of rubber materials, the cutting-edge approach is expected to further push the development.

For instance, nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, nanoclays, and silica nanoparticles, can be incorporated into the rubber matrices that help in improving the tensile strength, thermal stability and resistance to wear and tear.

Improvement in cost-effectiveness:

Scaling up the production helps in reducing the costs and bringing in the product to a wide range of applications.

This also includes streamlining the supply chains for bio-silica and other sustainable materials to enhance consistency and cost-effective sourcing.

Conclusion:

Kumho Petrochemicals’ initiative has set a benchmark for the industry and has encouraged several companies to bring in sustainable practices in the manufacturing sector. Additionally, the success of the innovation has opened doors for further development and research related to the aspect. Considering the welcoming attitude of environmentally conscious consumers, several companies have brought themselves forward to invest in sustainable technologies and practices.

 

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