December 11, 2014
Raw Materials of the Modern Pneumatic Tire
Since the beginning of the automobile industry, the design of a car tire has changed over time. The earliest tires were bands of leather, then iron and steel, which were placed on wooden wheels and used on carts and wagons (Dunlop 2008). Today, what we think of as a tire is a much more highly complex system. The modern pneumatic tire has a sophisticated mix of materials, including synthetic rubber, natural rubber, fabric and wire, along with carbon black and other chemical compounds. They consist of a tread and a body, where the tread provides traction while the body provides containment for a quantity of compressed air (Anatomy of a Tire). The pneumatic tire is so versatile that it has expanded its usage across cars, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, earthmovers, and aircrafts. The adaptability of this invention for moving vehicles demonstrates the resourcefulness of the materials placed together for its specific purpose. Therefore, this paper will discuss the specific raw materials of a tire that have the most impact on offering greater mileage and improved performance through the materials’ acquisition and manufacturing process.
Parts of the Tire
To understand the usefulness of the materials, one must first comprehend the different parts of a tire. The first are the rubber-coated beads, which run along the inner edges of a tire and are high-strength steel. They give tires strength while also helping to hold the tire to the wheel (Anatomy of a Tire).
The body of the tire, though commonly misunderstood to be made out of rubber, is actually made up of fabric. Layers of fabric, each one called a ply, build up to compose the body. These plies are a strong composite material and are coated with rubber to help them hold air inside while allowing them to bond to other parts of the tire. On top of the body are steel belts. Since most nails and road hazards don't puncture steel, these belts make the tires immune and help keep the tire tread at the optimum level of flatness. Since the tread's shape is just right, this ensures more road contact, and subsequently more traction and control (Tire Materials).
The sides of a tire are also important. These are called sidewalls, where information about the tire is printed. Sidewalls help hold the parts of a tire in place and stabilize the tire during side-to side movements (Anatomy of a Tire).
Lastly, an important part of the tire is the tread, which is the outer edge of the tire. It is made of a mixture of natural and synthetic rubber, just like the sidewall. Although the sidewall is smooth, the tread has a series of grooves in it, serving to maximize the performance and safety (Tire Materials).
Introducing Raw Materials
The largest material that a modern pneumatic tire is composed of is natural rubber, which makes up 28.2% of a tire's weight composition (with synthetic rubber making up 22.1%). The material is used in many parts of the tire, mainly for truck and earthmover tire tread. Rubber globules are contained in the milky, white latex found in the bark of rubber trees. Cultivation of these trees require specific climatic conditions and rainfall before making an incision to obtain the globules. As a result, rubber tree plantations are mainly located in Southeast Asia (including Thailand, the world’s largest producer and Indonesia), Latin America and Africa. Natural rubber is a great necessity towards making tires when examining the compound formulations: it reduces internal heat generation in tires, and at the same time, offers high mechanical resistance (How Products Are Made).
Another valuable raw material is synthetic rubber. Its synthetic quality composes 60% of rubber. This material is produced from petroleum-derived hydrocarbons; however, natural rubber is still necessary for the remaining 40%. Through the process of hysteresis, synthetic elastomers will deform under stress, and only until after the stress is removed does it return to their original shape. The importance of this property belies in the manufacture of high-grip tires. It is also valuable for other specific properties, such as longevity and rolling resistance. This material is commonly used for passenger car and motorcycle tire in order to establish a high quality grip performance (The Tire Digest).
In addition to the rubber compounds, the tire requires metal and textile reinforcements. A tire's geometry, rigidity, and flexibility are totally dependent on these reinforcements to provide a real framework. In 1934, steel was introduced to tire reinforcements after drawing fine wire from hard steel. With a strong physical-chemical bond between the rubber and steel, this became a major technical advance that was industrialized production in 1937. Steel was thus adopted for reinforcements of belts for radial tires. Polyaramid, an extremely hard and stiff synthetic fibre, is currently another dominant material in use. Textiles, on the other hand, are utilized to strengthen tiles. The role of fabric enforcement consists of providing high-performance and high-speed tires. In order to manufacture the reinforcements, polyester, nylon, rayon, and aramid are all used to provide added resistance, endurance, and comfort. Usually this is in a combination, such as polyesterfabric in the body plies and steel fabric in the belt sand beads of most radial passenger tires (Raw Materials).
The next component to consider is the reinforcing fillers: carbon black, silica, and sulfur. Once it was discovered in 1915, carbon black provided the rubber compound a tenfold increase in wear resistance of the tires. It composes 25 to 30% of the rubber composition and makes tires instantly recognizable by their distinctive color. Even the color provides a great value by being extremely effective in acting against ultraviolet rays and preventing the rubber from fissuring and cracking. Silica, on the other hand, is obtained from sand. This filler has properties that improve the resistance of rubber compounds to tearing. In 1992, Michelin made the revolutionary decision to combine original silica and a specific elastomer with a special bonding agent using a special "mixing" process. These compounds put together create a low rolling resistance tire, paired with a good grip on a cold surface and amazing longevity. With this innovation, the concept of green tires with low rolling resistance was born. Sulfur is another important chemical element because it is a vulcanizing agent that transforms the rubber from a plastic to an elastic state (Raw Materials).
Using a computer-controlling mixer, the raw materials (in which rubber has been cut) and compounding ingredients are mixed together until they have the consistency of gum. They are then knead with a roll before being sent to the manufacturing process. This process concocts various parts of the tire separately into the body of the tire, the belt that reinforces the body, the bead that joins the tire and wheel, and the tread that is the tire part in direct contact with the road surface. A core material such as steel or fibre composes these parts, and is coated by a special rubber compound (How Tires Are Made).
The tire parts that have been separately fabricated then become assembled together into a single tire form with the use of a building machine. This raw tire is called a "green tire". Next comes the vulcanization process, which consists of hardening rubber by treating it with sulfur at a high temperature. This process places the green tire in a mould, and after compressing by bladder, applies vapour at a high temperature and pressure to the mould from the inner side. The tire gets heated to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius) to cure the rubber and bond the components. The rubber and sulfur molecules bond due to the heat and pressure, therefore making the rubber in the green tire acquire a higher durability and elasticity. The mould also forms the final shape of the tire and pattern. Once the vulcanized tire comes out of the mould, the tire product is finally completed (Manufacturing Process).
Today tires are built to last for around 50,000 miles, so many people often purchase new cars before actually buying new tires. Among the entire car market in the United States, eight tire companies provide the product for all of them. Michelin has the largest share with their tires attached to 29% of new cars sold in the United States. Each tire brand makes specialty tire for every use imaginable, ranging from track cars to rock crawlers, heavy-duty trucks to Smart cars (How Tires Are Made).
Making and selling tires has proven to be fairly lucrative. In 2009, Bridgestone America sold $8 billion worth of tires. In that same year, the average retail price of a low-cost radial tire was about $75; however, performance tires can rack up to hundreds of dollars (How Tires Are Made).
Unfortunately, a high incidence of waste arises from the acquisition of raw materials; yet, there are a few ways to possibly improve these conditions. In order to efficiently reduce the use of process water, one can substitute the raw materials rayon and silica. This change has already begun to happen, as polyester has replaced rayon in car tires and subsequently reducing the water requirement. Using silica as a filler also leads to a clear reduction in a car tire's rolling resistance. However, since water is required for the manufacture of silica in the first place, ranking the environmental impact of this material is still questionable (Feraldi).
There is a high contribution of waste made by ore dressing residue. Using synthetic fibers instead of steelcord could be the right step towards reducing the amount of waste generated, but just like silica with water, this also assumes that the environmental impact from producing fibers does not cancel out the benefits of waste reduction (Ferrer).
Tire production generates a myriad amount of dead heap and overburden. It was difficult to find a way to directly influence this, since the negative impact results more from energy generation than directly from tire production. Nonetheless, an attempt should be made to differentiate the waste quantities and to then specifically reduce certain types while increasing the share of waste recycled (Feraldi).
There are opportunities for influencing the impact on the environment through the action of recycling worn tires. Recycling is an extremely vital action to implement since tire use is often accompanied by a high consumption of energy and resources, therefore largely contributing to global warming. Tire manufacturers should reduce the negative environmental potential by producing car tires with lower rolling resistance. This could also include the partial substitution of silica for carbon black as filler, which would allow improvements for greater fuel efficiency. Automakers can also play their part by cutting back the weight of the vehicle, and motorists can contribute by adopting a more economical driving style and paying more attention to the condition of their tires—in other words, making sure the tires are correctly inflated. This is also a job for tire makers to be held responsible (Ferrer).
No matter how severe the weather is, a modern pneumatic tire will give automobiles stability and traction while remaining connected to the road. Tires provide key safety features, preventing the loss of control that usually leads to an accident, and decreasing the risk of a crash. The safety and performance is dependent upon the raw materials that make up a tire. They are no longer just rubber and air. Instead, the modern day world has developed these inventions to be composed of several layers of materials, each playing its own role in how the tire functions. Constant improvements in rubber chemistry and tire design are creating exciting new tires that offer greater mileage and improved performance in extreme weather conditions, paving a promising path for the future, as long as the effort to reduce waste continues with great emphasis.
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Professor Cristina Cogdell
The Embodied Energy of an Automobile Tire
Millions upon millions of tires roll across the face of the Earth every day. We buy them, maintain and use them for a few years, and then get rid of them. But do we ever really think about where they came from before that, or where they go after? The lifecycle of a tire really begins with the acquisition of the raw materials used to make it. All the energy put into its manufacturing and delivery after this point amounts to the embodied energy of the tire. In the United States alone about 200 million replacement tires are purchased per year(National Research Council), naturally an enormous amount of embodied energy goes into producing that many tires. Consumers often forget to consider the environmental impact and energy that goes into what they purchase, especially something like a tire that is used and then thrown away by someone else. However, it is important to consider the embodied energy that goes into the acquisition of the raw materials, production, transportation and recycling of tires in order to understand generally how much energy is used in getting those tires on your car.
Raw materials acquisition is the first step in manufacturing any product. A variety of different forms of energy go into acquiring the materials used to make a tire, all of which are added to the total embodied energy of the tire. Synthetic rubber, natural rubber, steel, and reinforcing fillers(commonly carbon black) all must be obtained before the tires can be made.. Natural rubber is obtained from a couple of species of trees, which must grow for 6 years before they can be tapped for rubber. Workers then cut holes in the trees to harvest the sap, which flows for about six hours and can be done again the next day (Freudenrich, Craig). Chemical energy is the main form of energy used in gathering natural rubber. This includes the chemical energy(photosynthesis) required to grow the trees for six years, and the chemical energy exerted by the workers who harvest it. Synthetic rubber used in tires is primarily solution styrene-butadiene rubber, or S-SBR. S-SBR is created through a chemical process known as polymerization. The raw materials used(styrene and butadiene) must also be obtained through complicated laboratory techniques. The machine used to manufacture S-SBR uses electrical energy to provide the thermal and mechanical energy necessary for the polymerization reaction and manipulation(“Solution Styrene-Butadiene Rubber (S-SBR)”). While rubber makes up the majority of the materials, there are also reinforcing fillers mixed into the rubber along with steel cords that run through the tire.
Although tires may appear to be made solely of rubber, there are other materials used to reinforce the rubber. Steel cords run through the tire, and chemicals are mixed into the rubber to make it more durable. Acquiring the raw materials to reinforce tires adds even more to their embodied energy. The most common filler used for reinforcing tires is carbon black. Carbon black is pure elemental carbon that is produced as a result of incomplete combustion of petroleum products. The most common manufacturing process for carbon black involves heating of oils and petroleum gases which are then combined and vaporized, leaving carbon black behind("What Is Carbon Black?"). The primary energy type used to obtain carbon black is chemical, because fossil fuels must be burned in order to heat the materials. Information on the embodied energy of steel mining and processing is readily available from the US government. Each year, 6162 trillion btu of energy goes into the acquisition and processing of steel(an alloy of iron and carbon). This includes fuel and electricity, onsite and offsite losses, facilities, and primary energy use(Energetics Incorporated). Much of this energy is electrical and chemical, as many fossil fuels are used for power generation in both mining iron and processing it into steel. After acquiring the raw materials, more energy must be used to ship them to the factories where they will be used to make tires.
After acquiring the necessary materials to create a tire, they all must be shipped to a tire factory to finish creating the product. All of the energy used to move the materials from point A to point B can be added to the embodied energy necessary to make tires. Because there are so many tire factories, it is impossible to know exactly how much energy went into transporting each specific tire, or even a majority of tires. There are a large amount of tire factories because it is easier(and therefore cheaper) for tire manufactures to ship raw materials than to ship actual tires(Meyer, Bruce). By building many factories, tire manufactures are able to cut down on the shipping cost after the tire is produced. Shipping raw materials to tire factories is similar to shipping any product. Everything is transported by trucks, cargo planes and then smaller machines at the factory. All of these use chemical and/or electrical energy in the form of fossil fuels, batteries, and human work. After arrival at the factory the raw materials are turned into tires, using an immense amount of energy.
After the materials arrive at the factory, they are processed and turned into tires to be shipped out and sold. All of the energy used at the factory, for whatever purpose, adds to the embodied energy of the tires it creates. A case study conducted by Conservation Technology Inc. examined a factory that produced 33,000 metric tons of tires per year and found that it used 22,474,000 kWh of energy per year(Conversion Technology Inc.). The primary source of fuel used is #6 fuel, a liquid petroleum product used to power boilers. Each year the factory uses 7,540 tons of fuel to generate 103,140 tons of steam using boilers, therefore adding a large amount of heat to the production process. Other than the chemical energy used to power the boilers, electrical energy is used to power other machines in the production line. This includes machines for fabric cord cutting, steel belt cutting, tire bead assembling, tread and sidewall extruding, and a machine used to build the actual tire out of all of the other components(Tire Building Machine). This is an example of just one factory. The amount of energy used at each tire factory is different, because they all use different equipment and vary in efficiency. Once a tire is finished at the factory it is then ready to be shipped to customers, adding even more to the embodied energy.
Because tire manufactures prefer to build more factories instead of shipping tires great distances, the shipping of tires from the factory to the consumer is fairly simple. Everything is moved on trucks to tire warehouses or stores at this point. Some tires are even shipped directly to the customer if they are ordered online. The energy involved in shipping the tires to the consumer is the last portion of embodied energy used to produce and deliver a tire to the customer. Any additional energy used in the tires lifetime will be from recycling it, or the man-power needed to install it. Because a tire is simply put on a car, it does not take any additional energy to use a tire. Other than the man-power required to install the tires on your car, they no long use any more energy while rolling along. However, after a tires lifetime more energy can be put in to recycling it for later use.
After a tires life it can be recycled and used as rubber in various projects and products, or even burned to be used as fuel. Tire-derived fuel is not actually recycling, because the tire is used as fuel instead of re-used in another product. However, this is the best way to get as much energy back from a tire as possible. Tire-derived fuels produce the same amount of energy as oil, and 25% more energy than coal. This energy is commonly used to power kilns and boilers in several different facilities and even make electricity("Frequent Questions | Scrap Tires."). In 2003, 44.7% of tires in the United States were used to produce tire-derived fuels, but the other tires are recycled and used in other ways("Basic Information | Scrap Tires."). Other forms of tire recycling include use in civil engineering projects, conversion into ground rubber for use in recycled products or asphalt, exportation, re-treading(and subsequent re-use), cutting or stamping into products, and use in agriculture or other miscellaneous uses such as art. Tire rubber that is repurposed is often recycled using a machine that crushes the rubber into various sizes. These machines operate off of electricity, so some energy is needed in order to recycle a tire.
Many tires do not end up being recycled or even burned for fuel. These tires end up in landfills or in scrap tire stockpiles. These stockpiles are not considered toxic waste, however they can start fires that are extremely difficult to extinguish. In addition, a tires ability to retain heat combined with its shape allow for many insects to thrive in tire stockpiles("Basic Information | Scrap Tires."). Recent efforts have been made by state governments to reduce the amount of tires in stockpiles. As of 2004 there are only 275 million tires in stockpiles across the US, compared to 800 million in 1994("Basic Information | Scrap Tires."). Other than the energy that goes into moving the tires to the stockpile, stockpile storage does not add to the embodied energy of a tire.
By the time a tire is recycled, an immense amount of energy has gone into its lifecycle. In addition to the extremely large amounts of energy used at the many tire factories around the world, acquisition or production of raw materials all add to the embodied energy. Including the shipping of raw materials to the factory and shipping of completed tires to customers only makes that number even higher. While it is hard to find an exact amount due to the large variations in machinery or methods used and transportation costs, it is clear that before tires reach their destination a variety of different types and certainly large amounts of energy have gone into their making.
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Modern Pneumatic Car Tire
“No matter how many ways people find to make use of tires, old tire dumps still spring up around the world” (Leather 2010). Although attempts are acceptable, car tires are still affecting our surroundings, 86% of the impact is in our environment and our health (Michelin, Life cycle of a tire Analysis). This paper will give information about the danger, emissions, and waste generated by a car tire during its life cycle. It will also give us a look into the tries made in different places to recycle them and take advantages of the scraps. Despite the efforts to try making car tires less harmful to our environment, there is a huge negative impact made throughout the life cycle of the tire.
During the collection of the raw material to make a car tire, there are many that are thrown away and misused that affect our habitat. In a regular car tire, natural rubber makes up 14% of the tire (Anatomy of a Tire, web). The misuse of water on the process of natural rubber is huge. They use it to dilute the rubber latex, to wash and transport water slabs, to lubricate rubber sheets, and to wash containers and factory floors (Tekasakul 27). We know that this factories and the amount of rubber transported are large, therefore a large amount of water is also used to maintain this; in the world, approximately 3.5 million people die each year due to inadequate water supply (according to thewaterproject.org). We are in need of an appropriate treatment to prevent all this water waste on the creation of our car tires. Also in the rubber sheet dying industry, pollution is created in the workspace atmosphere and neighboring places by the smoke that comes from rubber wood burning, which affects the health of workers and neighbor cities (TEKASAKUL 29). Another component from the tire is synthetic rubber, which forms 27% of a car tire (Anatomy of a tire). According to the National Environmental Protection Agency Publications, the largest source of pollution generated by the synthetic rubber is aqueous emissions, which petrochemical feedstock is emitted in low concentrations in wastewater, transitory gas emissions, and solid residues (6). There is also an investigation going on with cancer cases linked to some synthetic rubber plants, since many of the workers have been found with Lymphosarcoma, an older term for lymphoma, which can become cancer (EPA). Another material used on the passenger car tire is Black Carbon, which is the most plentiful material, being 28% of a tire according to Scrap Tire Management Council. It is found on the EPA website that Black Carbon affects our climate, health, and environment; It absorbs the sunlight, reduces the albedo (reflection of sunlight on ice and water), and reduces the interaction of light with the clouds, these making a huge impact in global warming. Black carbon is also linked to the millions of premature deaths and cardio vascular effects in many countries. It has also reduced agricultural production, and to some material soiling (Effects of Black Carbon, EPA). All this impact is made by only the 69% of raw materials that make a passenger car tire; if we keep looking more into it, we’ll find the amount of impact caused by the energy put into the making of it.
Through out the process of making the car tire and the use of it, the energy input causes several dangerous emissions. Let’s start with most obvious example, throughout the process of the tire, there are many constant transportation of materials and products, which are mostly transported by cars or other vehicles that use gas, although this exact information wasn’t found, there are a lot of emissions caused during this transportation process which keep affecting our habitat, like we know, the constant use of petroleum and fossil fuels to generate energy affect ourselves in so many ways. All the raw materials have to be extracted, taken to the plants and factories, after they need to be distributed and the amount of gas emissions generated by this process just keeps progressing. While a car tire produces more dangerous emission into the atmosphere when is in operation (95.4%), there’s still a great amount of emissions caused by the production of the tire, more than in the transportation of it (Life Cycle Assessment of a Car Tire 10). The Carbon Dioxide that is emitted when the tires are in used is the responsible for the 95.4% of the negative impact on the atmosphere of the car tire phases according to the writers of the Life Cycle Assessments of a Car Tire. According to NESHAP (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) the processes using cements and solvents contribute to the 54% of the HAP emissions (Hazardous air pollutants) attribute to the car tire production industry. Many factories deny all these hazards and regardless of the masking done, the effects on our atmosphere and environment cannot be hidden.
Many companies tried to recycle the car tires, which may have some positive outcome. The most common use for scrap tires is fuel (TDF). Around the 52% out the 300 million tires produced annually, are used as fuel, which are more efficient than coal. At the same time it helps to keep stuck tires out of streets and land fields (Scrap Tire News). The EPA recognizes that the use of scrap tires fuel is a viable replacement for fossil fuels and it supports any practical use of scrap tires. However, out of 290 million scrap tires, only 130 million are used as fuel (EPA) and the attempts to recycle the car tires may help in some cases but not all these attempts are helpful for our ecosystem.
Despite the tries to make tire burning an effective source of energy, we are paying a much higher price by putting our health in risk, specially the health of those living close to such a factory. Like Tony Leather wrote, “Incineration occurs at higher temperatures than coal and produces 25% more energy, but since burning a ton of tires produces almost the same amount of carbon, it is hardly eco-friendly” (Leather 2010), the “eco-friendly” solution to generate energy by recycling car tires is not as efficient as they want to make us think. Like in Lydersen’s article is explained, the fact of burning tires into tiny particles to be able to create energy is not worth the chance if particles less than 2.5 micrometers can cause serious problems in people as of respiratory and others, since they can be easily unnoticed and breathed into the lungs and stay there for a long time, being the primarily affected kids. Imagine having these plants of tire burning around your house and to be breathing a daily huge amount of smoke like cigarettes, this is obviously not a joke or an energy saving project.
The final waste generated by car tires that are misplaced or just forgotten in a place damages not only our environment but our health as well. Like many of us know, scrap tires can hold water for very long periods of time, therefore many species can breed in that stagnant water, like mosquitoes, resulting on the spread of dengue fever, yellow fever, encephalitis, West Nile virus, and malaria; affecting the population around it and their health (EPA Scrap Tires, handbook on Recycling). Also, disposed tires in piles can give place to easy fire, which can be dangerous and toxic for the habitants around it and put their houses and habitats in risk, as well as their health. According to Scrap tire news, around 300 million scrap tires are generated annually, please note they don’t specify if only in the US, however, out of this only about half are actually recycled and the other is just lost in fields, yards, poor neighborhoods, streets, and so on which can’t be controlled and keep damaging our environment.
In conclusion, the tries to make car tires more recyclable and to have a less impact in our lives haven’t been as efficient to actually control the amount of unbeneficial waste generated by the car tire. Although most of the impact is made during its use, lack of interest in finding new materials instead of just trying to work with what’s already known, keeps impacting our health and environment in a greater scale.
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