Graphene Nanoflakes Touted as Toxic Tire Substitute

A US start-up is claiming that graphene could be added to tires to replace a toxic chemical blamed for killing fish in rivers and oceans.

Tennessee’s Carbon River claims the graphene could reduce or even replace the chemical 6PPD albeit it would have little impact on the shedding of microplastics from vehicle tires currently accounting for around a third of those found in our oceans and entering our food chain. The move is in response to California’s is expected ruling later this year to demand tire-makers demonstrate they are seeking an alternative to 6PPD.

The antioxidant and antiozonant is found in all tires today because it stabilizes them and reduces cracking but scientific research published in 2020 found the chemical was to blame for mass deaths of Coho salmon off the US West Coast.

Tire-makers are under pressure to find a solution because the extra weight of BEVs means when tires make contact with the road quantities of 6PPD released are set to surge. Carbon Rivers, based in Knoxville, says adding graphene nanoflakes to tires could reduce emissions by 28% and replace most or all of the 6PPD. Its chief strategy officer, David Morgan said testing using graphene nanoflakes in tires has already shown a “tremendous reduction” in 6PPD.

Graphene, thought to be a safe additive while possessing great strength, flexibility and thermal conductivity, could be added to tires at a “very, very low price”. He added: “We’ve had some initial conversations with tire-makers. We would like to see this in commercial testing.” The company is working with regulators and testing could begin in the first quarter of 2024, and the company’s graphene nanoflakes could be used in tires on the road as soon as 2025.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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