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Rhodia focuses on highly dispersible silica (subscription required) has a useful article on Challenge Bibendum 2011 and the market potential for materials used in fuel efficient tires. Market leaders in this segment include Rhodia in highly dispersible silica and Lanxess in synthetic rubber.

Rhodia has been producing the Zeosil brand tyre compound ingredient for around 30 years ago, but recent technological developments mean it has more to offer the fuel efficiency of a tyre than ever before. “Manufacturers like Michelin do already use large quantities of silica, but there are opportunities to increase this,” Rhodia representatives told Tyres & Accessories The kind of opportunities Rhodia refers mean both increasing the amount (and therefore the benefit) of the Zeosil/silica in the tyres and introduces the material into different parts of the tyre casing such as the bead and sidewall. Firstly, while some products already use around 90 per cent silica in their tread compounds, this certainly is not true across the board and even the most keen tyre manufacturers are said to be still operating in the 60 – 70 per cent range. And as circumferential flexion increases heat build up (and therefore rolling resistance) as well as the actual gripping surface, there are said to be further benefits available for those willing to adopt this silica approach when it comes to construction parts other than the tread. According to Rhodia, this strategy can be used in both passenger can truck tyre products, where the firm reports that it is also experiencing a fair degree of expansion.

The article includes a good comparison of the performance characteristics of HDS versus conventional fillers.

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