Developments to Watch
TOUGHER TIRES ARE JUST DOWN THE ROAD
Tires just don't last long enough. Even before the tread wears out, the sidewalls often crack, making tires more vulnerable to ruptures. But researchers at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, have an antidote that could make tires last longer.
The problem is ozone, created when fossil fuels are burned, which makes the double bonds that hold rubber together break down. As the bonds break, a tire becomes rigid, then cracks. Tiremakers mix antiozonants into rubber during production to retard such damage, but the protective chemicals migrate out. Battelle has developed a way to encapsulate the antiozonants in a polymer before the mixture is added to the rubber. The polymer keeps the antiozonants in the tire longer. Tires treated this way should last twice as long, says Battelle researcher Barbara A. Metz. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. owns the rights to the process.EDITED BY EMILY T. SMITH