Student cleans up tyre industry

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Robert Bosch, a PhD student at South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, has discovered a method of reducing the reliance on zinc oxide as a catalyst in the production of tyres.

This is a significant contribution to tyre technology as the industry currently uses 600,000 tonnes of zinc oxide every year. This is a highly toxic substance, which is poisonous to aquatic life-forms, and accumulates in the environment. Bosch has discovered a chemical compound catalyst (RNPX) that is environmentally friendly, and which will reduce the use of zinc oxide by two thirds.

According to Bosch, “We knew we were on to something after the first year of research in 2005, having done some trials with local companies. We realised RNPX was better and more cost-effective and there was no way this product was not going to be accepted by companies.”

Tyres produced using the new compound are currently undergoing road tests in Europe. Bosch is now employed as technical director of a company called Rubber Nano Products, and he expects it to take two years for the tyres to become commercially available. Rubber Nano Products are now engaged in discussions with a global manufacturer about commercial distribution.

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