Kumho Petrochemical creates eco-friendly synthetic rubber using biosilica

Seoul, South Korea – Kumho Petrochemical Co., Ltd. announced that it has started the eco-friendly synthetic rubber composite business using biosilica. The company has recently strengthened its research on eco-friendly and high end synthetic rubber composites using biosilica through memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and cooperative projects with manufacturers and partners at home and abroad. 
When silica is mixed with synthetic rubber for high performance tires such as Kumho Petrochemical’s SSBR, it improves fuel efficiency, braking power, and the tire’s abrasion resistance, making it an attractive raw material to replace the existing carbon black. Its use and demand are expected to gradually increase in the tire industry for electric vehicles, where grounding and abrasion performance are more critical than for vehicles with internal combustion engines because of heavier bodies. 
The new silica Kumho Petrochemical will use is made from rice bran (rice husk) extract. Its natural silica content, comprising more than 90 percent of the carbonized rice bran in ash, is converted into sodium silicate, which is then processed into biosilica that can be used in petrochemical products. The silica the company previously used was based on quartz grains, which consume much energy in the process of collecting and processing silica sand. However, the process of using rice bran is highly energy-efficient and can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 70 percent compared to the existing method. 
The eco-friendly synthetic rubber composites being developed by Kumho Petrochemical is a high-performance material that maximizes the dispersion properties of biosilica and SSBR and expected to be supplied to major domestic and foreign tire and shoe manufacturers. In addition, considering the biosilica business’s growth potential, Kumho Petrochemical will increase the production capacity of SSBR, the key material for the concerned business and one of the company’s flagship products, from the current 63,000 t to 123,000 tons, doubling by the end of 2022. 
Kumho Petrochemical CEO Jong Hoon Baek said, “We will continue to strengthen our performance in ESG management and think deeply about a sustainable business by developing next-generation eco-friendly materials in the future.”

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