Dandelion Not Just For Salads Anymore; How About Floor Mats?

May 10, 2011

Hold the weed killer! While homeowners typically look at dandelions sprouting on the lawn and immediately look for ways to kill the invasive weed, researchers at Ford and Ohio State University are studying the plant for ways to use it as a substitute for rubber and plastic in – you guessed it – cupholders, floor mats and interior trim.

The key here is dandelion’s use as a sustainable substitute.

And we all know how easily and quickly dandelions grow. If you have any doubt, come take a look at my lawn.

Getting back to the research going on by Ford and Ohio State University, though, the fact is that not all dandelions are created equally. One specific plant under study is the Russian dandelion, Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS).  It’s being grown in greenhouses at Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. The milky-white substance that seeps from the roots of the Russian dandelion is what’s used to produce the rubber.

But there’s a long way to go before these dandelions wind up in the family car’s cupholders or floor mats or the trim on the doors, dash and other areas.

For one thing, there’s the issue of how well dandelion plant material will hold up in a variety of plastics that are used throughout the vehicle. There’s also the huge issue of making sure the material meets stringent durability standards.

2011 Ford Focus

2011 Ford Focus

Enlarge Photo

Research into the potential use of dandelion root as a rubber substitute is yet another example of the Dearborn, Michigan automaker’s investment in sustainable materials for vehicles. Already Ford makes extensive use of sustainable materials in vehicles such as soy foam seat cushions, recycled cotton from blue jeans as sound-deadening material, recycled yarns for seat covers, recycled resins for underbody systems, and wheat straw-filled plastic for interior trim.

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