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Technology found to turn old tyres into new rubber products

Sydney 06 Oct 2011, Vol 2 Issue 39

Every year, a billion tyres are discarded worldwide following wear and tear, with the bulk going into landfills and placing a burden on the environment. But now, researchers have found a way to reuse them -- by creating rubber products.

"We have come up with a way of giving new life to old tyres that should eliminate the need for them to end up in a landfill," said study author Chris Skourtis from Deakin University Institute for Technology Research and Innovation.

Waste pile: Tyre mountains like these are a global phenomenon posing serious challenge to the environment. The new technology should help curb the menace (Photo courtesy: Deakin University)

"Tyres simply dumped or placed in landfill are known to leach harmful chemicals into the environment; cause fires; and provide a perfect breeding ground for pests like mosquitoes and rats," said Chris Skourtis from Deakin University.

"Our process does not rely on chemicals and uses less power -- making it more environmentally friendly," said Skourtis, according to a Deakin statement.

"It also results in high quality ingredients that can replace virgin and synthetic rubbers in the manufacture of products such as new tyres, car parts, insulation materials, conveyor belts and asphalt additive for roads," said Skourtis.

Deakin researchers, led by Qipeng Guo, developed a small-scale facility at the university's Waurn Ponds Campus to test and refine the recycling technology developed and patented by VR TEK Global.

"We now have a technology that is far better than any other tyre recycling processes," Skourtis explained.

“First, the tyres are segmented in a way that allows for each part to be treated differently which eliminates impurities and results in a higher quality end product. For example, the steel reinforcement in the tyre is separated without fragmenting, which is not common in current tyre recycling.

“We have then created an efficient means of devulcanising and activating the tyres into rubber powders for recycling into rubber products.

“Devulcanisation essentially reverses the chemical process used to create the tyres. This is normally done using environmentally harmful chemicals. We have developed a mechanical method that requires no chemicals.

“We have also developed a way of using ozone gas to activate the rubber powder which makes it more compatible with other materials. This extends the usability of the powder for producing a wider range of rubber and plastic products than currently possible.”

The statement added, “This breakthrough in tyre recycling technology is the result of four years of research and development between VR TEK Global and CSIRO and Deakin University. The project has been funded by the Federal Government (via the Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre) and the Victorian State Government (through the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing).

“In 2012, VR TEK will take the technology into commercial operation.” - IANS with additional inputs from TWL Bureau

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