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Speaker Interview: Guilherme Brunetto, Solvay

Guilherme Brunetto, global application engineer at Solvay, discusses the company’s research into using silica in all parts of the tire, not just the tread, and how it can benefit fuel efficiency and structural integrity.

Tell us about the potential benefits of using silica throughout the tire.
Efficient tires with a low rolling resistance are a reality today and they are helping to reduce fossil fuel consumption and consequently, CO2 emissions. An important stimulus for the development of these tires came from the European tire labels, which were introduced in 2012. Silica is one of the main raw materials applied in tires in the quest to combine low rolling resistance with high performance. Taking into account the fact that tire labelling is getting ever stricter, it's becoming important to expand the low rolling resistance concept beyond the tread compounds and apply what we’ve learnt to other tire components. The potential benefits of silica application in non-tread parts like the sidewall, bead and belt can contribute significantly to improving rolling resistance.

Apart from improved fuel economy, can the use of silica in the whole tire also benefit grip?
Grip is mostly related to the tread in contact with the road. For this part of the tire, silica has already been used with great success. However, in other parts of the tire, silica can contribute greatly to tire performance. For instance, it can be used to guarantee the right level of adhesion with the metal in belt compounds and the right level of flexure resistance in sidewall compounds, while also contributing to the reduction in rolling resistance. In a nutshell, we need to take a look at the aggregate value of silica usage in both non-tread parts and tread compounds.

Are there any downsides to using silica in non-tread parts and how can they be overcome?
Certainly, using silica for new compounds requires some adjustments. However, there are no real downsides to using silica in non-tread parts. Each non-tread compound is specific to the application. For example, in belt compounds it's a must to maximize the adhesion with the metal to get a robust structural tire. If we use silica in this application, the recipe will need to be altered, but we have tested it and we observed that Solvay solutions can bring low hysteresis benefits without downsides for the other performance goals. It's a question of know-how.

What’s next for this technology? Are there potential applications for silica you are still working on utilizing?
Silica technology is one of the major ingredients of tire formulations and has a significant impact on all properties (wear, grip, rolling resistance and handling). New generations of silica are being developed to improve performance and offset drawbacks, or even eliminate them. Our most important goal is to meet specific customer demands by adjusting our silica to their particular applications and strategies. Using silica in non-tread applications is a way to globally improve the tire performance set.

Guilherme Brunetto will give a presentation titled Silica benefits for internal tire parts at the Tire Technology Expo Conference. Click here to book your delegate pass.

Solvay will also be exhibiting at Tire Technology Expo to present its portfolio of silica solutions, at stand C542. Register for the free Expo here.

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