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Researchers at Ford and Ohio State look to dandelions for 'green' material

Researchers at Ford and Ohio State University are looking at Russian dandelions as a source to produce a variety of plastics.

A milky-white substance that seeps from dandelion roots could be used to produce a variety of plastics that are used in vehicles. Ford

There's no whining about these dandelions; they may some day be used as a substitute for synthetic rubber in interior car products such as cupholders, floor mats, and interior trim.

Researchers at Ford and Ohio State University are growing a certain species of dandelion at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) to test it out as a source of sustainable material.

"We're always looking for new sustainable materials to use in our vehicles that have a smaller carbon footprint to produce and can be grown locally," said Angela Harris, Ford research engineer. "Synthetic rubber is not a sustainable resource, so we want to minimize its use in our vehicles when possible. Dandelions have the potential to serve as a great natural alternative to synthetic rubber in our products."

By extracting the milky-white substance that seeps from the roots of the Russian dandelion (or known by its scientific name, Taraxacum kok-saghyz or TKS), researchers are able to create an eco-friendly material. Researchers are testing out this material to see if it meets durability standards.

"This variety of dandelion is much hardier than the kind typically found in our back yards," said Harris. "It's strange to see weeds being grown in perfectly manicured rows in a greenhouse, but these dandelions could be the next sustainable material in our vehicles."

Over the past several years Ford has increasedthe use of nonmetal recycled and bio-based materials such as soy foam seat cushions, wheat straw-filled plastic, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarn on seat covers, and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.