What’s next for tyres – the promise of graphene

OK, we may be a little biased, but we think that tyre compounds are pretty amazing. We blogged recently about how modern tyres utilise over 200 raw materials. Now they look set to become even more incredible as manufacturers start incorporating the super-material graphene into their products.

Developed in 2004, graphene is a form of carbon that has some astonishing properties. To begin with, it’s the thinnest conceivable material, existing in lattices just one atom thick. It’s also light, transparent, completely impermeable and a superb conductor of electricity.


The structure of graphene.

Graphene’s potential for the tyre industry seems enormous, because in addition to these characteristics, it’s also strong. Very strong. In fact, graphene is around 200 times stronger than steel. It’s not surprising that manufacturers are looking to make use of it, and recent months have seen the first appearances of graphene-enhanced products.

Just this week, Vittora — major players in the bicycle tyre market — made BBC news with their graphene-enhanced range. According to Senior Executive Michael Marx, graphene meets the conflicting targets that tyres face in a way that was impossible for existing materials.

But what about the car tyre industry? Here too, things are moving fast. In September 2016, Chinese manufacturers Sentury and Huagao launched their first graphene-containing tyre. Their figures suggest that, relative to conventional materials, the new tyre can achieve:

  • 6% reduction in stopping distance
  • 1.5 – 1.8 times mileage
  • 1.5 times better rolling resistance
  • 10% decrease in weight.

These are impressive figures, and the companies are looking to capitalise on their lead. According to Tyre Press, the companies aim to produce 5 million units in the next five years. Nor are Sentury and Huagao the only early adopters of graphene.  Graphene suppliers Sixth Element are now adding their product to tyre formulations used by Shangdong Hengyu, apparently with spectacular results. Wear rate for the compounds was reduced by 25%, while tear strength increased by over 100%. The new material is present in their Horizon HD tyre.

With graphene offering so much, it’s a safe bet that researchers at all the giant tyre manufacturers are working furiously to exploit its potential. And that can only be good news for consumers. Stronger, grippier, more durable tyres are on the horizon. We’re looking forward to it.

With thanks to Tyre Press for their research.

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