By John Stone
There is going to be a significant influx of ‘graphene tyres’ in the global tyre market as it has been recognized that the use of Graphene can make tyres lighter and give them better grip which is not possible with the existing tyre compounds.
Tyre companies are always scouting for new materials to give them an edge over their competitors. As with all business sectors, new potentially innovative developments emerge, a good number which never actually reaching the production stage for a variety of reasons. Only once in a while does a product or production process actually make the trip to become part of a tyre.
All the talk in Europe at the moment is about Graphene, a form of carbon that was discovered twelve years ago by Andre Geim (Russian-born Dutch-British Physicist) and Konstantin Novodelov (Russian-British Physicist) who in 2010 received the Nobel prize in Physics for their work on Graphene.
Graphene has already been acknowledged as being significantly stronger than steel and has the ability to carry electrical charges faster than materials currently being used which will make tyres not only lighter with less rolling resistance but also improve their puncture resistance and give even more grip which is not possible with the existing tyre compounds. Quite impressive claims for a product that is reputed to be the world’s thinnest material (between 2-8 atoms) in an industry that thrives on constant advance in efficiency and safety!
It has to be noted that it was the cycling world that first embraced Graphene (by Vittoria a bicycle tyre specialist). It was eventually taken up by the tyre industry. So where is this potentially enhancing product faring in the global tyre industry at the moment?
Well, at the moment Graphene is being seen as a new product for tomorrow’s tyres and has already been acknowledged and used by a couple of China-based producers – Sentury (passenger tyres) and Hengyu (truck tyres). They have not only developed but actually started to distribute Graphene enhanced tyres. So, at the moment only several lesser-known tyre manufacturers have had the vision to actually use Graphene in the construction of tyres.
However, as I have learned just recently, all of the major brand producers including Pirelli and Goodyear are currently monitoring the use of this new ‘ingredient’ and it is quite possible that in due course all tyres with include Graphene. So let’s wait and see what happens!
Other product applications
Graphene flakes and oxide are already being used in a number of product applications including primer paints, anti-corrosion coatings, synthetic films, rubber and batteries. So, of course, rubber means tyres and, as far as I am aware, there are at least three different companies supplying Graphene to the market. Therefore, I believe that during the next twelve months there is going to be a significant influx of ‘graphene tyres’ in the global tyre market.
Certainly as the show season starts to get underway in 2017, it will be interesting to see how many exhibitors will be showcasing Graphene in their products. It is true to say that our market will always be subjected to new, all-enhancing materials in the future because that is what technology is all about. So, the next twelve months, are going to be a very interesting period for all aspects of the tyre market.