A new silicone tire sealant stops nails in their tracks

A new silicone tire sealant stops nails in their tracks

A flat tire is a minor inconvenience. It doesn’t matter if you use a jack and lug wrench to change the tire yourself or wait for AAA to do it for you, it’s a waste of time. A new level of tire complexity is being developed in the age electrification. To save weight, electric vehicles are heavy. Therefore, designers are choosing to not include spare tires in their designs. Additionally, batteries take up a lot more space, making it difficult to carry a spare. According to tire company Bridgestone, approximately one-third (33%) of all passenger cars sold in the US today do not have a spare tire.

Self sealing technology can reduce the need for a spare tire and free up space. It also allows for a lighter vehicle which increases the vehicle’s overall driving range. Global manufacturer Dow has announced the launch of a recyclable silicone self-sealing tire solution that will allow drivers to travel long distances even after a sharp object (like a nail) punctures the outer wall of a tire. It seals the inner layer to maintain tire pressure. It does not require any lug nuts to be removed.

Here’s how it works.

Silicone in comparison to other sealants

Giving drivers the opportunity to continue down the road following a puncture is a major benefit, but even more impressive is the sustainability aspect of silicone sealant, Dow & Bridgestone boast . Bob Lux, Bridgestone Tires’ director for consumer tires, explained to PopSci why silicone is easier to work with than traditional sealants like natural rubber and butyl. An elastomeric polymer used widely in adhesives and sealants, butyl is a synthetic rubber invented in the 1940s. It has been effectively used as a sealant for many years, but companies like Bridgestone are finding that it has a host of challenges that can be solved with silicone.

“Manufacturers have started to use sealant more widely,” Lux states. “It’s not necessarily new as they have been around in some form since the 90s, but it’s much better today because silicone sealant doesn’t cause ride disturbances. Sealants used to shift and cause unevenness and wouldn’t stay put in the past. This issue is not present with today’s sealants

This silicone sealant is applied to the tires for protection during manufacturing. This seals the puncture wound to maintain proper tire pressure. It is like a superhero who absorbs and instantly heals from epic battles.

A new silicone tire sealant stops nails in their tracks
Ideally, this is how it works. Dow

Sustainable tire practices

Silicone is easier to use from an energy-saving perspective, as it can be applied at room temperature. Butyl and natural rubber require heat to be applied. Heat consumes more energy. The recycling of old sealants is difficult because they are sticky. Tires can be chopped up and recycled in many ways, including as playground material or back into the tire manufacturing process.

“At tire’s end of life, recycling becomes difficult with traditional sealant.” Lux said. “[Traditional] Sealant will gum up machines that cut up tires for recycling .”

Not silicone, however. This new sealant technology could reduce the number of tires that end up in landfills. However, the silicone must be removed first. The silicone can then be separated and recycled to make playground mulch or industrial lubricant.

Run flats or sealant?

When it comes to getting a flat, you might have heard of run-flats. Because of their convenience, they have grown in popularity in recent times. Bridgestone and BFGoodrich make run-flats. They have reinforced sidewalls that allow drivers to move their vehicle to a safer location.

In the event of a puncture, the repairable area for a tire is approximately one quarter inch. Sealant keeps the tire together. Run-flats are useful in cases of severe sidewall punctures. Sealant protects the tread area.

Theoretically silicone sealant could be paired alongside run-flats to provide extra protection, but this combination is not a priority for EVs at the moment. Lux states that silicone sealant has a significant impact on range. It’s lighter and doesn’t affect rolling resistance .”

Bridgestone will be adding this co-developed sealant into tires for a car manufacturer fitment soon; Lux says it will be released in 2023.

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