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MSNBC: Renewable Rubber Highlights New Economy

In the world of synthetic biology, microbes engineered to produce medicines and biofuels generate plenty of buzz, but the real money-making opportunity may lie in less sexy products such as tires. That’s the bet California-based synthetic chemical firm Amyris and the Paris-based Michelin tire company are making with the recent announcement of a new partnership to develop and commercialize isoprene, the chemical building block of synthetic rubber.

While rubber is found in nature, isoprene is one of the many products made with chemicals derived from oil.

“Eighty-five percent of the volume of a barrel of oil is used to make fuel,” notes Nature News, “but the chemicals that come from the remaining 15 percent account for 85 percent of the barrel’s monetary value.”

The Amyris/Michelin partnership expects their isoprene to hit the market in 2015 for use in tires and other specialty chemical applications such as adhesives, coatings and sealants.

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