Birla Carbon partners American Process to improve fuel efficiency of tyres

12.03.2017 18:03:49

Two companies aim to improve fuel efficiency of tyres by combining carbon black and nanocellulose
Rakesh Rao | Mumbai
March 8, 2017 Last Updated at 14:23 IST

Birla Carbon, a flagship business of the $ 41 billion Aditya Birla Group, will collaborate with American Process Inc (API) in the US to explore the technical and business potential of combining carbon black and nanocellulose to improve the performance and sustainability profile of tyres.

Two companies have signed a joint development agreement in this regard last recently. While Birla Carbon is one of the leading producers of carbon black, American Process is a bio-refinery technology firm focused on industrial scale-up of production technologies for renewable materials, fuels and chemicals from biomass.

Initial evaluations suggest synergies between Birla Carbon and API's BioPlus nanocellulose products to significantly lower the rolling resistance of tyres. Research indicates that up to 20 percent of a vehicle's fuel efficiency is impacted by the rolling resistance of tyres. Increased commercialisation of low rolling resistance tread material is a key technology development focus area identified in Birla Carbon's 2016 Sustainability Report.

Over 70 percent of the world's carbon black is consumed by the tyre industry, with carbon black constituting 25 percent of the tyre weight. Within the tyre industry, there are ever-increasing demands to improve rolling resistance, traction and fuel economy while maintaining tyre safety and affordability. In addition, with growing populations, economies, and mobility throughout the world, the industry must ensure that technology developments are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

"Low rolling resistance has been and has become an ever increasing area of investment and technological development for tyre manufacturers in all aspects of tire technology including design, construction and materials. The synergies between carbon black and nanocellulose offer an exciting opportunity to meet the performance and environmental demands placed on us as a responsible manufacturing entity in a global society," said Charles Herd, director of Birla Carbon's rubber black technology.

Theodora Retsina, CEO of American Process Inc, added, "In addition to its exceptional sustainability profile, nanocellulose offers tremendous performance improvements for a variety of materials applications including rubber. With strength equivalent to carbon fibre, nanocellulose can improve the strength, durability, and toughness of composites. It also shows unique synergistic effects with other filler materials like carbon black in improving composite performance."

Nanocellulose is a versatile high-strength, light-weight renewable biomaterial that Thomson Reuters named as one of the top 10 technologies that will change the world by 2025. API estimates the near-term global market size for nanocellulose to be 3.7 million tonnes per year. To serve the market, API has developed two distinct nanocellulose production processes, BioPlus (for various enduses including reinforcement of plastics and rubber) and BioPlus GreenBox (for brown packaging and plastics reinforcement).

While API has a pilot scale plant of capacity 500-kg per day at its Thomaston Biorefinery in Georgia (USA), Birla Carbon has a technology centre at Marietta (USA). "This partnership has many synergies including Birla Carbon's technical expertise, rigorous and disciplined development program, and world-class research facility in Marietta, Georgia. Our ability to offer large-scale quantities of a variety of nanocellulose products with various particle sizes and surface chemistries also enhances the development process," stated Kim Nelson, API's VP of nanocellulose.

Birla Carbon's footprint extends across 12 countries with 16 manufacturing facilities. The company provides a complete portfolio of products across ASTM grades and specialty carbon blacks to meet the specific end requirements across tyres, rubber, plastics, coatings, inks and other niche industries. The company has two technology centres at Marietta (USA) and Taloja (Maharashtra), besides well-equipped laboratories across its manufacturing units providing for continuous R&D.

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