Goodyear sets goal to double use of rice husk ash silica by 2021
Found everywhere from rocky mountains to sandy beaches, silica – commonly known as quartz – is one of the most abundant, durable and useful minerals around the world.
While predominantly used in glass production, industrial grade silica in its finest form is also mixed with rubber to strengthen tire treads and reduce rolling resistance, which improves fuel economy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
So, of all places, why is Goodyear doubling its commitment to source silica from burnt rice husks?
From rice fields to tire treads
According to the United Nations, more than 700 million tons of rice is harvested worldwide each year.
During the milling process, the protective outer shell, or husk, is separated from the rice grain and discarded. To reduce the amount of waste shipped to landfills, the rice husks are often burned to generate electricity, leaving behind a silica-rich byproduct known as rice husk ash (RHA).
Goodyear started exploring the use of RHA silica in 2013 with positive results.
“When we consider substitute material sources, we look for the impacts on product performance,” said Dr. Bob Woloszynek, Goodyear's chief engineer for raw materials development and reinforcement technology. "We were pleased to find that compared to conventional sand-based silica, the RHA-grade material was an equivalent replacement in performance.”
RHA silica is now firmly entrenched in Goodyear's materials portfolio and used across several of its global manufacturing facilities.
Silica’s positive effect on tire performance
The addition of silica enhances a tire tread's flexibility and elasticity at lower temperatures, which gives better traction and grip. Goodyear has also found that silica improves tires’ rolling resistance when compared to carbon black. The resulting lower rolling resistance also allows for enhanced vehicle fuel economy and wet weather tire performance.
The company is now working closely with its suppliers to further expand the use of RHA silica and has set a goal to double its use by 2021.
“We are really pleased to continue developing this technology from something that would have been sent to landfill, and include it in our premium products," said Dr. Woloszynek.