Developing natural rubber from dandelions

May 17, 2016— Ottawa, Ontario

NRC's scientific support benefits NovaBioRubber green rubber technology

A recent collaboration between the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and NovaBioRubber Green Technologies Inc., with funding from the Build-in-Canada Innovation Program (BCIP), has resulted in the development and marketing of technology and equipment for dry rubber extraction.

Also known as NovaBioRubber, this Canadian company's green process and proprietary rubber extractor represent a promising approach to use previously untapped annual rubber-bearing plants. The added advantage is they have developed a process with an almost ideal product recovery and a very pure natural rubber product. Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS) plants, also known as Russian dandelion, contains a significant accumulation of rubber and inulin—a valuable by-product—which functions as a  dietary fibre additive in food products for digestive health.

The development of a processing method to access a domestic source of high-quality natural rubber is an important step in meeting the growing demand for natural rubber, and offset some reliance on petrochemical-derived synthetic rubber and foreign natural rubber.

Research carried out by NRC scientists using the NovaBioRubber prototype extractor and downstream process determined optimal operating parameters for rubber extraction. The team looked for possible efficiencies and identified sources of product loss in extraction and downstream processing. With NRC's support, NovaBioRubber will be able to recover up to 99 percent of the product extracted.

"Our research teams work with partners like NovaBioRubber to derive or validate processes that extract value-added and sustainable products from natural resources, including agricultural biomass such as rubber bearing plants," explained Jim Johnston, the NRC program leader who oversees this research. "Our Ottawa-based bioprocessing team, with over three decades of combined expertise in research, technology and process development were able to validate an environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic rubber, where the extraction process is both energy-efficient and environmentally friendly."

NovaBioRubber's primary rubber extraction step is dry, continuous, rapid, cost-effective and entirely green, requiring neither solvents nor water. During downstream processing, the product mixture is treated by mild sifting and washing steps to separate fractions rich in rubber and inulin. Processing conditions do not require solvent, pumping or heating processes that are usually found in industrial chemical processes.

"This new method of accessing high-quality natural rubber represents an important resource to meet a growing demand for, and diversify, the global natural rubber sector, and offset some reliance on petroleum-derived synthetic rubber," believes Dr. Anvar Buranov, President and CEO, NovaBioRubber Green Technologies Inc.

"NovaBioRubber welcomes investors for the commercialization of this green and cost-efficient process for the production of high-quality natural rubber and inulin in the next three years."

NRC's role was to serve as a third-party testing department with support of the Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP).

"Our program was created to bolster innovation in Canada's business sector and help companies bridge the pre-commercialization gap by procuring and testing late stage innovative goods and services within the federal government before taking them to market," said Jacques Lepage, Advisor with Innovation Management, Build in Canada Innovation Program.  

Russian dandelion has a number of important traits, including its resilience and ability to grow in multiple climates. Biomass gathered from its roots is well suited for mechanical extraction, producing a mixture that can be separated into high-quality product streams. Currently, NovaBioRubber grows Russian dandelion in British Columbia, Canada.

Synthetic rubber is used in the production of countless products, making it an important global resource. However, synthetic rubber is mainly manufactured from petroleum, a non-renewable energy source. Approximately 10 billion kilograms of synthetic rubbers are produced annually.

Related links

(Left to right): National Research Council Canada scientists Dr. Trent Yang, Fang Huang, Dr. Julian Dafoe, Jacques Lepage, Advisor, Innovation Management, Build in Canada Innovation Program and Dr. Anvar Buranov, President and CEO, NovaBioRubber Green Technologies Inc. pictured at NRC Ottawa facilities.

A closer look at biorubber before its extraction.

Fang Huang extracts fibre at NRC’s lab in Ottawa, Ontario.

Dr. Julian Dafoe extracts biorubber at NRC’s lab in Ottawa, Ontario.

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