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September 10, 2001
Volume 79, Number 37
CENEAR 79 37 p. 12
ISSN 0009-2347
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New compounds look promising for next-generation tires


Mindful of Firestone's recent tire problems, Goodyear and Michelin are working on new-generation polyurethane technology that may be the key to making tires less prone to tread separation and blowout.

ROLLING A polyurethane tire based on a process developed by Amerityre may join Goodyear's wall of products some years down the road.
Goodyear has signed an agreement to jointly develop an all-polyurethane car tire with Amerityre, a six-year-old Boulder City, Nev., company that now makes polyurethane bicycle tires but has produced demonstration car and light-truck tires.

According to Richard A. Steinke, Amerityre's president and CEO, a mixture of polyol, methylene diphenyl isocyanate (MDI), and a proprietary package of four additional ingredients can be injected into a mold containing a tire bead and reinforcement fabric and then spun to ensure a perfectly round tire.

Unlike conventional tires made by bonding several layers, monolithic polyurethane tires not subject to belt separation could be made on automated equipment to allow more rapid tire production at costs comparable to tires made today, Steinke says.

The tire has a number of skeptics. "According to our scientists, heat buildup remains an obstacle" to polyurethane auto tires, says a spokesman for polyurethane ingredients supplier Bayer.

Goodyear Advanced Products Manager Ron Dill says work between 1950 and 1970 produced polyurethane tires that did not measure up to conventional rubber tires. But "material performance and process improvements over the past 20 years" could make polyurethane tires a reality in several years.

Separately, Michelin has developed a new tire system--the Pax System--that depends on an internal polyurethane support that Dow Chemical developed to allow the tire to run flat for 125 miles.

Peder Danielsen, Dow polyurethanes business manager, says Dow developed "polymers never made before" of MDI and polyols for Michelin. Dow plans to produce polyurethane supports molded to Michelin's specifications for tires to go into production next year.

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