HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.—The Russian dandelion helped win World War II, and it is about to become an acknowledged "green" technology for users of natural rubber, according to Anvar Buranov.
Buranov, president and CEO of Vancouver-based Nova-BioRubber Green Technologies Inc., made a pitch for the Russian dandelion—also known as Taraxacum kok-saghyz, or TKS—at the 29th annual Clemson University Tire Industry Conference, held April 24-26 in Hilton Head.
Nova-BioRubber holds a U.S. patent for extracting rubber from TKS, according to Buranov. The process is purely mechanical, using neither water nor chemicals, and works at room temperature, he said.
The continuous process recovers 98 percent of the total rubber from TKS, and the resulting dry biomass contains inulin, a polysaccharide fiber used in food processing, he said.
During World War II, when the Japanese blockade cut off supplies of natural rubber from Southeast Asia, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union searched desperately for workable substitutes, according to Buranov. The Russian dandelion turned out to be the solution, he said.
"The Soviet Union asked for help, and the U.S. asked for seeds," Buranov said. Before the war's end, some 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of TKS had been planted in the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Canada, he said.
This wartime effort was recounted in a 1947 publication by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to Buranov. But because so much of the literature on TKS was either classified or in Russian, the plant remained unknown to the public until 2002, when Nova-BioRubber started business.
The patented Nova-BioRubber process extracts rubber and latex that is hypoallergenic, making it extremely useful for rubber gloves and other medical applications where latex allergies can prove deadly, Buranov said.
The process also provides significant cost savings over other NR extraction methods, he said. The Nova-BioRubber process costs only $1 per kilogram for rubber extraction, compared with $44 per kilogram for the TKS extraction method developed during World War II.
Nova-BioRubber is concentrating its TKS-growing plans in Canada, where land is cheap and which has the cool climate necessary to cultivating the plant, according to Buranov. The company also seeks commercial partners for expansion activities, he said.