Later this year, Pirelli is set to launch car tires that include wood-derived fillers. According to Luciano Tadielli, an innovative materials researcher, the innovative industrial process is optimized for scale-up and utilization in passenger car tires.
Pirelli’s technology follows the company’s years of research and development to solve challenges surrounding the mixing of lignin into rubber compounds. It involves chemical treatment and co-precipitation techniques.
“You will find the lignin filler in the tire from the end of this year,” Tadielli told European Rubber Journal in an interview following a 28 June presentation about the technology at the Nuremberg Messe.
Lignin is a by-product of the paper pulping process found in the paper industry. It’s a bio-based material that provides a sustainable alternative to carbon black. It is important in reinforcing filler in rubber compounds and Pirelli tires.
Pirelli plans to start with one tire size since the application process can be different for tires.
“It is not like [adding] a new grade of carbon black, which is already a norm and can be swapped in one-to-one in different tire compounds,” Tadielli explained.
The tire compound being made will have about 15% lignin compound, accounting for about half of carbon black. The first application will be for the replacement segment to see what happens from a market perspective.
Most OE manufacturers are focused on incorporating renewables in the entire vehicle.
“So, if they want to make an action only about recyclable materials… then lignin is off the table because it is not in that area.
Tadielli concluded by saying that in case OEs require sustainable bio-based materials, the lignin technology will then be suitable.