Premium tyre manufacturer, Continental and Security Matters (SMX), a company focused on the digitisation of physical objects in the blockchain, are working together to develop and test a marker technology for natural rubber. To that end, the two companies recently entered into a collaboration agreement. The special marker technology, which has been further developed by the project partners for use in natural rubber, is intended in the future to contribute to even greater transparency and traceability along the entire value chain of Continental’s tyres and technical rubber products. Provided with special security features, the use of marker substances enables the invisible labeling of natural rubber with information on its exact geographical origin. With the aid of special reading devices and specially developed software, the information on the natural rubber can be viewed and its origin can be precisely assigned at any time. As part of the industrialisation of this technology, it would also be conceivable for the marker technology to be linked to blockchain technology, which is known to be particularly forgery-proof.
"We are testing this marker technology to ensure in the future that the natural rubber we use in our tyres has been verifiably grown and sourced in a fully sustainable manner," says Claus Petschick, Head of Sustainability at Continental's Tires business area. He adds, "We aim to procure all our materials from responsible sources. Innovative technologies and digitalisation make an important contribution to this." Therefore by 2050 at the latest, all materials used by Continental in its worldwide tyre production are to be sourced responsibly.
Extensive laboratory tests by the two project partners have been successful. For example, different marker substances currently being tested have been detected both in the natural rubber latex ("Rubber tree to rubber bale test section") and in the processed and vulcanised natural rubber of the tyre ("Rubber bale to tyre test section"), and thus along the entire manufacturing process, without altering the appearance and performance of the end product.
Continental and Security Matters are now working on utilising the new marker technology so it can be used on a larger scale during the rubber extraction process. "Our collaboration shows that physical and digital tracking can be ensured through unique and immutable chemical-based barcodes in rubber products as well," says Haggai Alon, founder, and CEO of Security Matters. He adds, "Together with Continental, we now want to use our marker technology to further improve the transparency of the natural rubber supply chain."
Responsible procurement of raw materials helps to minimise environmental and human rights-related risks. For this reason, the use of sustainable raw materials in tyre manufacturing, and the commitment to and acceptance of responsibility for their sustainable production and processing, have long been a high priority at Continental. At this year's IAA MOBILITY in Munich, for example, the premium tyre manufacturer presented its sustainable tyre concept Conti GreenConcept to the public for the first time. With this concept study, the company is providing an outlook on current and future technologies for the construction of sustainable passenger tyres and once again underscoring its diverse activities with regard to transparent and traceable procurement of natural rubber. Also containing exclusively responsibly sourced natural rubber is Continental's concept tyre for the ID. LIFE concept car from Volkswagen, which was also presented at this year's IAA MOBILTY. Based on Continental's EcoContact 6 series tyre, this concept tyre contains environmentally friendly tyre construction technologies, whose use in series production is possible in the short term.
Continental has set itself the goal of becoming the most progressive tyre company in terms of environmental and social responsibility by 2030. By 2050 at the latest, Continental aims to use 100 percent sustainably produced materials in its tyre products and achieve complete climate neutrality along its entire value chain.
The start of the collaboration between Continental and Security Matters was initiated by Continental's own start-up organisation co-pace. Its goal is to broker, promote and leverage connections between emerging companies and Continental’s business units. The focus areas for the global team of technology experts at co-pace are advanced materials, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, data security, next-generation batteries, advanced drive systems and smart cities.