Bridgestone launches joint project to develop chemical recycling process to achieve high-yield production of isoprene from used tires; partners include AIST, Tohoku University, Eneos, JGC Holdings, with goal to have process ready by 2030

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TOKYO , February 23, 2022 (press release) –

  • Bridgestone has launched a joint program to develop chemical recycling technologies that utilize used tires to achieve high-yield production of isoprene, a raw material for synthetic rubber production.
  • The R&D program was adopted by the Green Innovation Fund promoted by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) of Japan.
  • Bridgestone and its partners are working to increase synthetic rubber recycling and achieve carbon neutrality, contributing to the realization of a more sustainable society.

Bridgestone Corporation announced the launch of a joint research and development program with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Tohoku University, ENEOS Corporation and JGC HOLDINGS CORPORATION. This program is aimed at developing chemical recycling technologies that utilize used tires to achieve high-yield production of isoprene,*1 a raw material for synthetic rubber. By combining the expertise and technologies of industry leading companies and academic institutions, Bridgestone is working to develop innovative recycling technologies that will contribute to the realization of a more sustainable society and to conduct demonstrations for the social implementation of these technologies by 2030.

Tire demand is expected to grow in the future in conjunction with rising automobile and transportation demand.*2 Synthetic rubber is one of the primary materials used when producing tires and is generally manufactured using petroleum today. Used tires are also utilized as fuel mainly through thermal recovery technologies*3 in Japan. At the same time, it is projected that society will come to face issues related to resource depletion and climate change triggered by increased CO2 emissions in the future.

To ensure that it can continue to supply tires in more sustainable manner, Bridgestone has teamed up with AIST, Tohoku University, ENEOS and JGC HOLDINGS to kick off a co-creative program for developing chemical recycling technologies of used tire that combine the expertise and technologies of companies and academic institutions. In this manner, Bridgestone and its partners are working to contribute to increased resource recycling and carbon neutrality across the value chains of the tire and rubber industry and the petroleum and petrochemical industry.

The R&D program will promote the social implementation of technologies for high-yield production of isoprene by decomposing used tires with a specialized catalyst.*4 AIST, Tohoku University, and ENEOS will be responsible for the development of chemical recycling technologies of used tires and the related evaluation technologies while JGC HOLDINGS will be tasked with designing pilot plants. As the project leader, Bridgestone will play a central role in the project, guiding demonstrations for social implementation by utilizing its rubber R&D resources and expertise in the tire and rubber industry.

This program on "recycling technologies to achieve high-yield production by decomposing at low temperatures and depolymerization of used tires (brought by Bridgestone)" is one of two research and development (R&D) projects under the initiative called "developing chemical product manufacturing technologies utilizing used tires" promoted by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) of Japan*5*6 and adopted as part of "the Green Innovation Fund" of NEDO.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan decided to develop the Green Innovation Fund toward the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, the sustainability goal of Japanese government. The plan aims to accelerate structural transformation in energy and industry sector and innovation through ambitious investment. The Green Innovation Fund continuously supports companies and other organizations which address challenges to achieve the goal as part of their business from research and development (R&D) to demonstrations to social implementation of the outcomes for the coming ten years.

Through this program, AIST, Tohoku University, ENEOS, JGC HOLDINGS, and Bridgestone seek to help increase synthetic rubber recycling and achieve carbon neutrality in the tire and rubber and the petroleum and petrochemical industries and to contribute to the realization of a more sustainable society.

*1 Chemical recycling entails treating used materials with chemicals to convert them into other chemical substances to be recycled, as opposed to reusing them as is.

*2 Japan Association for Chemical Innovation article on rubber-related basic chemical product manufacturing strategies as part of the chemical industry's innovation strategies and vision for society 30 years from now (in Japanese only)
http://www.jaci.or.jp/public/page_03.html#rubber

*3 Thermal recovery entails recovering heat energy from used resources.

*4 Rubbers and plastics are polymers created by linking monomers, such as isoprene and butadiene. Bridgestone is developing a process of decomposing used tires at low temperatures and then using a specialized catalyst to break them down into isoprene and other monomers (depolymerization).

*5 Project for Developing Chemical Product Manufacturing Technologies Utilizing Used Tires Advanced by Bridgestone and ENEOS, Adopted as part of "the Green Innovation Fund / Development of Technology for Producing Raw Materials for Plastics using CO2 and Other Sources Projects" of NEDO (in Japanese only)
https://www.nedo.go.jp/news/press/AA5_101517.html

*6 Please refer to the following website for information on a detail about "chemical recycling technologies that enable precise pyrolysis of used tires", the other project of the two R&D theme under the scheme for demonstration "developing chemical product manufacturing technologies utilizing used tires" adopted as part of "the Green Innovation Fund / Development of Technology for Producing Raw Materials for Plastics using CO2 and Other Sources Projects" of NEDO.
https://www.bridgestone.com/corporate/news/2022021801.html

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