By P Venugopal:

Dr Sabu Thomas and his team have successfully developed the prototypes of tyres that can have any colour of your choice and need inflating only once a year

You can soon expect to drive your car on tyres that have the same colour as your vehicle and that need inflating only once a year.
Dr Sabu Thomas, Professor of Polymer Engineering and Nanotechnology and Vice Chancellor-in -charge of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala, and his team have successfully developed the prototypes of tyres that can have any colour of your choice and have less air permeability.
Dr Sabu Thomas and his team did the experiment spanning over 6 years under the MG University’s Nanotechnology and Polymer Chemistry division.

Carbon black vs silica

Talking to Rubber Asia, Dr Sabu Thomas explained that the conventional tyres look black because carbon black is added to them.
The colour originates from the combination of stabilizing chemicals which are added and blended with the tyre polymer during the production of a tyre. Carbon black has the capability to resist the corrosive effects of ozone and UV rays which drastically prolongs the life of the tyre. So all tyre manufacturers conventionally use this additive in tyre production.
However, these chemical properties of carbon black get used up and lose their effectiveness over a time in the process of changing UV to heat and absorbing ozone. As the carbon black additive loses its ability to perform, it will turn light grey, which is why black tyres will fade and turn a near white as they age.
While different coloured novelty tyres exist and are available for customers to purchase, they aren’t meant to be used for daily driving.
In the new tyre developed by Dr Sabu Thomas, carbon black is completely replaced by silica which makes it possible to add any colour to it without compromising on the safety and life of the tyre. The use of silica in tyre is found to deliver good wet-weather performance, extra-grip and better flexibility through low heat build-up. Many tyre companies are now in the process of developing eco-friendly `green tyres’ that do not use carbon black at all.
Dr Sabu Thomas is planning to collaborate with Apollo Tyres Ltd for the commercial production of the tyre which may take up to four years for fruition.

Air permeability

Another finding of this distinguished Nanotech scientist is that air permeability of tyres can be greatly reduced by making improvements to the inner lines of tyres. The new inner line has been made by mixing natural rubber, artificial rubber and clarified clay. The clay particles in the inner line prevent air from escaping the tyre, thus necessitating inflating only once a year, he says.
By reducing weight, friction and wear, the tyre’s life and vehicle’s mileage and travel comfort would increase. Punctures will also reduce. The same technology can be used to make tyres for air-crafts.
Both these pilot projects are funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. Dr Sabu Thomas has applied for the Indian and international patents for the new technology.

Awards galore

A Ph.D in Polymer Science and Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Dr Sabu Thomas is the Founder Director of International and Inter-University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, MG University.
Cited in the list of the Most Productive Researchers in India (5th position) in 2018, Dr Sabu Thomas is a recipient of several awards for his research findings. These include the Faculty Research Award 2018 by Careers 360 for the most-cited researcher in India in Material Science, TRiLA Academician of the Award 2018, Full Bright Fellowship in 2017, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Award for Scientific Excellence 2016, Society For Educational & Scientific Research (SESR) Nanotech Scientist Award 2014 etc.