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AFRL, Partners Eye Dandelion Species as Natural Rubber Source for Producing Aircraft Tires

2 mins read

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is collaborating with three organizations to explore the potential of a variety of dandelions as a local source of natural rubber.

AFRL revealed Monday that it tapped the BioIndustrial Manufacturing and Design Ecosystem, Farmed Materials and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for the multimillion-dollar project, which aims to secure the supply chain for aircraft tire production.

The team’s objective is to plant and harvest a dandelion species called Kok-saghyz, or TK, which has been found to produce natural rubber when its roots are crushed.

To execute the multiyear program, the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Manufacturing and Industrial Technologies Division partnered with BioMADE, a public-private manufacturing innovation institute established by the Department of Defense. 

BioMADE subcontracted small business firm Farmed Materials to access its TK dandelion crops. The rubber produced from the crops will be manufactured by Goodyear into aircraft tires tailored to Air Force specifications.

Researchers hope the collective effort will help strengthen the domestic stockpile of natural rubber, currently a major U.S. import.

“We are less than 10 years away from demand [for natural rubber] exceeding supply,” stated Angela Campo, research chemist at AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and deputy program manager for BioMADE.

“The Air Force needs a secure supply chain of natural rubber. As we saw during COVID, many shutdowns occurred where many countries were no longer shipping items. Eventually, that picked back up, but we don’t ever want to be in that position of not having a consistent supply of critical materials,” Campo continued.

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