LiveBIG Staff, March 29, 2017

You probably know that petroleum – while a crucial part of various industries in this country – has issues with sustainability, from its production to its supply. And while you may know that petroleum affects the gas in your car, did you know that it also affects the tires?

Thirty percent of a traditional tire – unlike the all-natural ones they?re hatching at the University of Minnesota – is made up of a filler material called carbon black, which requires petroleum (the rest is generally rubber). But supply shortages – not to mention political issues – in countries the U.S. depends on for petroleum has researchers looking at alternative filler sources for tires.

If the efforts of Ohio State University?s Dr. Katrina Cornish and researcher Cindy Barrera are any indicator, the future of tires is in garbage. Specifically, eggshells and tomato skins.

Eggshells have porous microstructures that provide larger surface area for contact with the rubber, and give rubber-based materials unusual properties. Tomato peels, on the other hand, are highly stable at high temperatures and can also be used to generate material with good performance.

?Fillers generally make rubber stronger, but they also make it less flexible,? Barrera said. ?We found that replacing different portions of carbon black with ground eggshells and tomato peels caused synergistic effects-for instance, enabling strong rubber to retain flexibility.?

While the new garbage-y tires are pending further development through Dr. Cornish?s company EnergyEne, her other alternative use efforts in the last couple years focused on that other key ingredient in tires: rubber. But in this case, it?s to create a safer latex glove.