Tires to match your cellulosic ethanol?

Oregon State University researchers find tires made partially from trees to be cheaper, perform better, and offer more fuel efficiency.

Doctoral student Web Bai working on a rubber composite for tires in an OSU laboratory. Oregon State University

I'm sure you've heard of a rubber tree plant, but have you also heard about the new rubber tree tire?

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have developed a tire made from plant materials combined with rubber that offers several benefits over conventionally manufactured tires.

The rubber composite contains microcrystalline cellulose as an additive, a material that can be made from a wide variety of plant materials, instead of the usual carbon black or silica typically used.

Manufacturing tires from a renewable plant source could be less expensive to produce than tires using carbon black, which is made from oil , or silica which takes a lot of energy to produce.

But aside from the manufacturing benefits, the researchers found that the cellulosic rubber tires had better traction on wet surfaces and were less affected by heat compared to conventional tires.

"Early tests indicate that such products would have comparable traction on cold or wet pavement, be just as strong, and provide even higher fuel efficiency than traditional tires in hot weather," according to a report from Kaichang Li, associate professor of wood science and engineering in the OSU College of Forestry, and Wen Bai, a doctoral student who collaborated on the project.

Tech Culture
About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet,, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.


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