Bridgestone, Japan’s leading tire maker, and Ajinomoto, Japan’s leading company of fermentation technology, allied to develop biomass-derived tires. Ajinomoto successfully produced isoprene from corn sugar. The two companies will develop tire rubber mixed with isoprene rubber to increase its strength and wear resistance. At present, isoprene rubber accounts for several percentage of the total rubber used in a tire. Michelin of France and Goodyear of the U.S. have already started to develop biomass-derived rubber, and Bridgestone follow them in alliance with Ajinomoto.
Ajinomoto developed a microorganism capable of producing isoprene. It extracts isoprene after fermenting the microorganism that ate plant-derived sugar, and Bridgestone processes isoprene into rubber with the aid of its original catalyst technology. Ajinomoto will build a pilot plant next year and improve the fermentation technology to establish the technology to mass-produce isoprene by 2020, and Bridgestone will manufacture a tire that employs biomass-derived rubber toward 2015 on trial. Because biomass-derived tire can replace natural rubber, Bridgestone reckons that mass-produced rubber will have enough cost competitiveness in the future. Bridgestone plans to launch tires made of materials free from such fossil resources as oil in 2020.