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Green News: Ford Pioneers Use of Renewable Soy Oil in Rubber Car Parts

Ford’s researchers find that using renewable soy oil as a 25 percent replacement for petroleum oil more than doubles rubber’s stretchability and reduces its environmental impact
OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
16 Jul 2010

Ford Motor Company’s biomaterial researchers have engineered a patent-pending formula to use renewable soy oil to improve rubber car parts and make them more environmentally friendly.

By using renewable soy oil as a 25 percent replacement for petroleum oil, Ford researchers more than doubled rubber’s stretchability and reduced its environmental impact. Soy-based rubber parts such as radiator deflector shields, air baffles, cupholder inserts and floor mats are under consideration for future Ford vehicle programs.

The scope of Ford’s recent rubber research, which was funded in part by grants from the United Soybean Board (USB), included the use of soy fillers (flour, meal) as well as soy oils.

Ford researchers found that soy fillers could provide an inexpensive and environmentally friendly partial replacement of carbon black, a petroleum-based material traditionally used to reinforce rubber. Used together, soy oil and soy fillers could replace up to 26 percent of the petroleum-based content in automotive rubber applications.

While rubber’s role in automotive applications is generally not a glamorous one, it is significant. According to the International Rubber Study Group, the automotive sector accounts for more than 50 percent of worldwide rubber consumption, which exceeded 22 million metric tons in 2008. Automotive rubber usage is expected to rise more than 4 percent through 2013.

Ford is a pioneer in the use of biomaterials in vehicles. Ford was the first automaker to demonstrate that soy-based foams could be formulated to pass stringent requirements for automotive applications, starting with seats for the 2008 Ford Mustang and headliners for the 2010 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. The new 2011 Ford Explorer will become the 23rd model to feature soy foam.

Ford also is looking at the use of other renewable sources for foam, including grape seed and sunflower oil. In addition to bio foam, the company is working with post-consumer recycled resins to make underbody systems, post-industrial recycled yarns for seat fabrics, repurposed nylon carpeting made into nylon resin and molded into cylinder head covers, and wheat straw-reinforced plastic parts.

“By increasing the use of recycled or renewable content and reducing the use of undesirable materials whenever possible, we’re helping to reduce waste to landfills by millions of pounds – and we’re doing it around the world,” said John Viera, Ford’s director of Sustainability and Environmental policy.

Credits: wilswong

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