There are thousands of landfill sites around the world filled with hundreds of millions of tires. Unfortunately used tires have been notoriously hard to recycle until now. They have been ground up and used as an aggregate in road surfaces or for flooring but sixty-five percent of annual rubber production is used to make new tires. The vulcanizing process chemically changes the rubber and makes it unsuitable to reuse in new tires.

British researchers may have found a way to make the previously vulcanized rubber adhere to new rubber so that it can be reused. By grinding up old tires and then treating them in an ionized oxygen plasma chamber they have been able to get the carbon bonds to break and adhere to new rubber particles. Once that happens the rubber can be reprocessed in to new tires. Similar process have been tried before with chlorine or flourine but using oxygen is definitely less risky.

[Source: New Scientist Tech, thanks to Howard for the tip]


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