Sumitomo Rubber Receives Awards in 2 Categories at the “Tire Technology International Awards for Innovation and Excellence” for “The Synthesized Biopolymers Project” & “Invention of a New Enzyme Evaluation Technique”
Mar. 22. 2023
Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. is pleased to announce that we received awards in two categories at the “Tire Technology International Awards for Innovation and Excellence,” one of the main events at “Tire Technology Expo 2023,” which was held this past March 21 through March 23 in Hannover, Germany. Specifically, we received an award in the “Materials Innovation of the Year” Category for our “The Synthesized Biopolymers Project” as well as an award in the “R&D Breakthrough of the Year” Category for our “Invention of a New Enzyme Evaluation Technique.”
Dr. Yukino Miyagi (a Manager in the Material Planning Department at our Material Research and Development HQ) and Dr. Bernd Löwenhaupt (the Managing Director of Sumitomo Rubber Europe GmbH) both personally attended the awards ceremony held on March 21. In their acceptance speeches, they thanked the many researchers whose collaborative work on these projects made these awards possible. They also emphasized that the Sumitomo Rubber Group is always working hard to contribute to the realization of sustainable societies in keeping with our Long-Term Sustainability Policy. As part of these efforts, we are committed not only to furthering such advanced research but also to promoting cooperative activities with various stakeholders to make natural rubber into a sustainable resource for the future. Through these efforts, we hope to ensure a stable supply of raw materials while reducing the environmental impact of the products that we provide so that we may contribute to the development and prosperity of sustainable societies.
Scene from the Awards Ceremony
■Summary of The Synthesized Biopolymers Project
Through our collaborative research with Tohoku University, Kanazawa University, Saitama University and RIKEN to study an enzyme derived from tomatoes (which is structurally similar to the enzyme (synthase) involved in the biosynthesis of natural rubber), we succeeded in synthesizing a biopolymer with a structure not found in nature.
・Taking full advantage of the SPring-8 Synchrotron Radiation Facility, we first elucidated the structure of an enzyme derived from tomatoes, which has a structure that is similar to natural rubber synthase.*1
・We next identified the specific segment of natural rubber synthase that plays a key role in controlling polymer chain lengths in natural rubber. We then replaced this segment into the aforementioned tomato enzyme to create a “Modified Tomato Enzyme.” Using this modified enzyme as a catalyst, we succeeded in synthesizing a biopolymer that features a structure not found in nature.*2
・We also discovered that the use of this “Modified Tomato Enzyme” as a catalyst allowed for synthesis starting from monomers other than the initial monomers typically involved in the initiation of polymerization. By taking advantage of this characteristic, we then succeeded in synthesizing entirely new biopolymers incorporating initial monomers that we selected at will.*3
Thanks to collaborative research with Saitama University, Tohoku University and Kanazawa University, we invented a new technique for evaluating enzymes that utilizes artificial membranes called “nanodiscs.” Where conventional evaluation techniques that use natural membranes are limited due to contamination by naturally occurring impurities, this new technique solves this issue to allow for much greater precision in evaluations. In addition, we also succeeded in activating key functions of natural rubber synthases on these artificial membranes.*4
Held annually in Europe since its inception in 2001, the “Tire Technology Expo” is a conference and trade show that brings together tire manufacturers, material suppliers, public sector research institutes and other stakeholders to report on and share results from the latest research related to tires and tire manufacturing. One of the highlights of the Expo is the awards ceremony, with awards presented in 12 categories*5 for outstanding achievements in research and technology, etc.
We believe that this year’s two awards are proof positive of the widespread recognition that we have earned from throughout the tire industry for our groundbreaking material development activities as well as our formidable overall technical capabilities. We will continue to advance this and other lines of research toward ensuring a stable supply of natural rubber while also providing safer tires with lower environmental impact for greater overall peace of mind. Through this process, we hope to make positive contributions to the development and prosperity of sustainable societies for the future.
This year’s two awards bring our total number of “Tire Technology International Awards for Innovation and Excellence” received to date to six. We previously won in 2010 for our “Fourth-Generation Run-Flat Tire Technology,” in 2017 for our “ADVANCED 4D NANO DESIGN New Materials Development Technology,” in 2019 for our “SENSING CORE Technology” and in 2022 for our “Performance Sustaining Technology.”*6
※3. Successful Synthesis of Biopolymer for Development of Ultimate Fuel-Efficient Tires ～Contributing to Sustainable Societies through Natural Rubber Bioengineering～(News Release Issued October 13, 2022)
※4. Sumitomo Rubber Invents Enzyme Evaluation Technique to Shed New Light on Mechanisms Behind Natural Rubber Biosynthesis ～Joint Research with Saitama University, Tohoku University & Kanazawa University～(News Release Issued April 14, 2022)
※5. “Environmental Achievement of the Year – Tire Design,” “Environmental Achievement of the Year – Manufacturing,” “Environmental Achievement of the Year – Industry Contribution,” “Chemicals and Compounding Innovation of the Year,” “Materials Innovation of the Year,” “R&D Breakthrough of the Year,” “Tire Manufacturing Innovation of the Year,” “Tire Industry Supplier of the Year,” “New Tire Technology of the Year,” “Tire Concept of the Year,” “Tire of the Year,” “Tire Manufacturer of the Year”
※6. All four of our previous awards were in the “Tire Technology of the Year” Category.