ANKLAM, Germany — Automotive supplier and tire manufacturer Continental recently opened a new research laboratory here to research the use of dandelions as an alternative to the rubber tree.
The Taraxagum Lab Anklam will be set as the base for future research on farming and the extraction process of Russian dandelion as an alternative raw material source to the rubber tree in the tropics. If initial test results indicate viability, the tire manufacturer is planning to introduce the raw material into serial production within ten years, according to a news release from Continental.
“We are proud to inaugurate this lighthouse project today,” said Nikolai Setzer, member of the executive board of Continental AG and head of the tire division, at the opening ceremony on Dec. 6. “We are the first tire manufacturer in the world to invest such a significant amount in industrializing dandelion rubber. We see Russian dandelion as an important alternative and complementary to conventional natural rubber from hevea brasiliensis allowing us to meet rising global demand in an environmentally compatible and reliable way.”
Also in attendance at the ceremony was Harry Glawe, minister of Economic Affairs of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Michael Galander, the mayor of Anklam, and site manager Dr. Carsten Venz.
Setzer added that the company’s investment in the new laboratory is part of its Vision 2025 business strategy, in which Continental has invested more than 2 billion euros in production, research, and development as well as in jobs and new products.
Approximately 20 employees with background in agricultural sciences, chemistry, and production and process technology will conduct research on plant cultivation, in addition to developing, setting up, and operating machines for processing Russian dandelions at the new location.
Continental had presented plans for the laboratory in August 2016 and began construction in November 2017.
“We have been working to understand the molecular basis of the rubber biosynthesis in the dandelion plant for many years,” said Dirk Prüfer, professor of plant biotechnology at the University of Münster and site director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME, Münster branch. “This biological understanding has now brought industrial use within reach. With the new test laboratory, Continental has broken new ground that makes this transfer concept highly visible.”
For more information about the Taraxagum project, go to www.taraxagum.com.