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Supplier spotlight: Lanxess

Tires that are produced using Lanxess' specialty chemicals, have beneficial properties for motorists


Lanxess is a leading specialty chemicals company with sales of 8.8 billion euro in 2011 and currently around 17,100 employees in 31 countries. The company is currently represented at 48 production sites worldwide.

The core business of Lanxess is the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals. Lanxess is a member of the leading sustainable indices Dow Jones Sustainability Index World and FTSE4Good.

The responsibilities for the operational business of Lanxess are borne by 14 business units, which are geared towards the needs of the market. The business unit heads report directly to the Lanxess Board of Management.

This enables quick decisions - that benefit the company - without hindering bureaucracy. The business units are grouped into the three segments Performance Polymers, Advanced Intermediates and Performance Chemicals.

Green tires – improved safety, less fuel, lower costs

All cars have tires, of course, but few drivers really know much about them. And yet it's worth taking a closer look when choosing tires, because they differ significantly in terms of quality and this can affect key driving characteristics. For instance, low-cost tires may be cheaper initially, but they often perform poorly in terms of safety and fuel efficiency. This is in part due to the rubber mixtures used in their production. Environmentally friendly quality tires – also known as 'green tires' – that contain high-performance rubbers from Lanxess, may be more expensive, but they offer numerous advantages on the road. Here is an overview of the strengths of 'green tires':

1. Efficiency and environmental sustainability

Between 20 and 30% of an engine's drive energy are used to overcome the rolling resistance of tires alone. Green tires have a much lower rolling resistance than conventional tires. The following simple example shows how this characteristic pays dividends for drivers: a set of 'green tires' may cost about 80-200 euro more than conventional ones. Based on fuel consumption of 6L per 100km, green tires save up to 0.5L per 100km. Covering an average distance of 15,000km a year and based on a fuel price of 1.60 euro per liter, the higher purchase costs will be recouped within just two years. And green tires are good for the environment, too. Equipping all the cars in the world with these tires would save up to 20 billion liters of fuel a year and cut annual CO2 emissions by 50 million metric tons.

2. Good braking performance and maximum safety

The efficiency of green tires does not come at the cost of safety. Quite the opposite in fact. Incorporating the high-performance rubbers of specialty chemicals company Lanxess, these quality tires deliver an excellent braking performance – on both wet and dry roads. Compared to bad tires, 'green tires' reduce the braking distance at a speed of 80kmph by up to 20m.

3. Higher mileage and longer service life

Green tires deliver a sustained peak performance. They not only improve fuel efficiency and grip, but also ensure a higher mileage and a longer service life. This results in a better price/performance ratio for drivers. Long-lasting tires are also kind on the environment, because they help conserve resources.

4. Quiet driving

Road traffic accounts for around 17% of Germany's noise emissions. The rolling noise from tires is often even louder than the engine. Green tires help to reduce this rolling noise.

Right products in place:

“The worldwide tire labeling initiatives are a key incentive for the global tire industry, and our recent comprehensive survey of the SSBR market captured the mood of this industry,” says Christoph Kalla, head of Marketing in the Performance Butadiene Rubbers (PBR) business unit of specialty chemicals group Lanxess. “Anyone who is looking to make tires even safer and even more economical needs advanced tire rubbers,” remarks Kalla. “This is exactly what we're focusing on – and that's the message. We're one of the most active suppliers when it comes to further improvement of the current generation of tire rubbers,” he adds.

In its capacity as a synthetic rubber pioneer, Tire treads' abrasion properties can be improved by using Lanxess Buna SL instead of the emulsion SBR rubbers used to date, such as Buna SE. In conjunction with appropriate fillers, Buna SL can also help reduce treads' rolling resistance, which goes a long way toward meeting the rising demand for energy-saving tires. These findings are likely to be particularly beneficial for retreading. Replacing worn treads with new ones helps cut costs and reduce the number of tires being thrown away. Retread tires that also save energy thanks to new Lanxess rubbers result in further significant environmental benefits.

NdBR rubbers are far easier to process than standard NdBR. Even in conjunction with polar SSBR grades, these grades make no compromises when it comes to tire performance. New NdBR grades from LANXESS offer similarly easy processing to rubbers such as cobalt-polybutadiene, while the tire compound produces the good rolling resistance typical of NdBR.

Lanxess has a new technology for making functionalized SSBR using both the batch process and continuous polymerization. In application engineering tests on tire tread compounds, the new functionalized SSBR grades from LANXESS demonstrate far lower rolling resistance and the same good wet grip as the SSBR grades previously supplied by the company. The manufacture of these functionalized SSBR grades has been successfully transferred from the laboratory to industrial-scale production. Initial results from tire tests confirm the findings of the application engineering tests.

In a nutshell, laboratory data is still important but there are certain aspects that can only be tested correctly on the product itself. Tire test stand data is vital for the development of optimal tire rubbers. This is proof of the importance of collaboration between raw material manufacturers and tire producers.

Critical rubber processing parameters can influence the tire compound's properties. The latest polybutadiene generation, for example, boasts both high energy efficiency and a longer service life – two aspects that are particularly important for tire rubbers but have so far been hard to combine. The process window for the production of optimal products, however, is relatively narrow. Taking a rheological perspective, Kheirandish describes the impact that the selection of optimum process parameters such as extrusion speed and temperature have on the compound's properties and the limits processors may need to consider.

Bomobutyl rubber can enhance a tire's traction and safety properties. Brominated isobutylene/isoprene has been used for years as a key component in inner-liner production. Thanks to its good damping properties, however, it can also improve traction properties. Using an appropriate compound formulation in ultra-high-performance treads, brominated isobutylene/isoprene can help ensure high energy efficiency while also significantly improving road traction.

Christoph Kalla, Lanxess International SA
Tel: 0041 26 4228 368



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