Compounds are key to tyre performance.
Research on polymers, fillers and chemical additives offers Pirelli new future possibilities to develop ever more stable compounds, even lighter structures and even more impermeable liners.
Collaboration of Pirelli with the academic world involves the University of Milan Bicocca, offering scholarships for doctoral candidates in the School of Sciences through the Corimav (Consorzio ricerca materiali avanzati – Consortium for Research on Advanced Materials).
The relationship between Milan Polytechnic and Pirelli has led to establishment of the chair in “Chemical Foundations of Rubber and Compound Technology” for the study of innovative materials for development of new generation tyres.
In November 2013 Pirelli, Rosneft and Rostec (Russian Technologies) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to carry out joint research and development activities on materials to be used in tyre production.
The tyre production materials include synthetic rubber, fillers such as carbon black and reinforcing materials, with all of them being developed at the high technological standards of Pirelli. Pirelli, Rosneft and Oil Techno signed a Memorandum of Understanding for joint research and development in the synthetic rubber field, and particularly Styrene-Butadiene Rubber (SBR), in Armenia. According to the terms of the preliminary agreement, Rosneft will be the principal investor in the activities related to SBR rubber in Armenia and Oil Techno will represent the local partner. For its part, Pirelli will collaborate with Rosneft in research and development activities related to SBR rubber, and is interested in defining a long-term supply agreement for purchase of the SBR rubber to be produced. An eco-sustainable material, SBR rubber is used to product low environmental impact tyres, and contributes to improving its performance as measured by fuel consumption and grip under both dry and wet conditions.
The introduction of a new family of materials – “nano- fillers” – in tyre compounds aims to obtain mechanical reinforcement and air impermeability properties that could not otherwise be achieved. These new material properties will translate into improved performance, environmental impact, safety and tyre durability. At the product level, the possibility of using stiffer compounds allows to develop tyres with improved driving characteristics, particularly in terms of stability and precision.
By using compounds that are significantly stiffer than those currently used, it will also be possible to develop tyres with a different structure, where several elements may have smaller dimensions, thus resulting in a lighter tyre that consequently has a reduced environmental impact in terms of raw material use and lower mass to be managed during waste disposal. The barrier characteristic of compounds with lamellar nanocompounds may significantly improve the impermeability of tyres to air, fundamentally impacting product characteristics.
Between 2008 and 2011, Pirelli led the “Nanofiller and New High-Performance Materials for Tyres” pre-competitive programme, financed by the Ministry of Economic Development and carried out in collaboration with the Milan Polytechnic, University of Salerno, the German institute DIK, CNR-ISMAC – Genoa unit and INSTM-University of Brescia. Its activities, aimed at developing the mechanical reinforcement obtainable with nanofillers or improving its impermeability were particularly successful. Four materials, including three lamellar materials and one having a fibrous geometry, were developed in eight different applications to the prototype tyre stage. This resulted in five patent applications being filed. Four of these applications were introduced into industrial production immediately after the end of the development programme. The activities carried out in collaboration with the universities and research institutes mentioned above have led to significant progress in basic comprehension of the systems comprised by nanometric fillers in elastomers, testifying – together with technical reports, publications and presentations at conferences – to the scientific excellence of the work performed.