Yulex, Cooper Tire form biopolymer joint development agreement

By Bryan Sims | March 08, 2012

Chandler, Ariz.-based Yulex Corp. and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. have entered into a joint development agreement to evaluate and develop biopolymer and biobased resins derived from the guayule (pronounced “why-you-lee”), a desert shrub, for tire applications.

Under the agreement, Cooper will provide advanced polymer and materials science expertise and utilize its design, development and testing capabilities in the joint project. Yulex will provide experience with the development and production of advanced engineered guayule-based biopolymers. Specific terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed at press time.

“The agreement between Cooper Tire and Yulex will facilitate development of a domestic source of natural rubber leveraging resources and capabilities of both companies,” stated Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper’s vice president of global technology. “Our goal is to develop a reliable source of natural rubber, significantly decreasing tire industry reliance on foreign sources of raw materials. If successful, the program will create a new agricultural polymer with broad-based tire industry applications, convert desert wasteland into viable farm land for associated crops, and create jobs for American works.”

Yulex’s business and patents are based on methods for cultivating, harvesting, defoliating and decorticating the guayule plant, as well as utilizing chemical and mechanical extraction techniques for the production of biobased elastomer products such as premium latex and resin (or bioadhesives) that can be used in an array of consumer and healthcare products.

Guayule (Partheneum argentatum) is a commercial crop and the only rubber-producing species other than the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) that has been used for latex production on a commercial scale.

“We are excited to be partnering with Cooper Tire to develop a custom technology utilizing the guayule plant for their next-generation tire production,” said Jeff Martin, CEO of Yulex. “This agreement represents an outstanding commercial opportunity and a significant validation of our technology.”