Michelin is bidding to improve its green credentials by working with a French energy enterprise to develop and commercialise butadiene based on biological sources for its tyres.
The firm believes the synthetic rubber will help it develop low-environmental impact tyres in the future.
The BioButterfly project will conduct research into the development of more eco-friendly sources of synthetic rubber, as well as taking charge of each stage of the process, from pilot to the validation of an industrial processing plant.
Researchers will focus on five main areas during the project, including the production of economically competitive bio-butadiene and the reduction of the associated environmental impacts, particularly carbon emissions, across the entire production chain, compared with fossil fuels.
Efforts will also be placed in the ability to manufacture high-performance synthetic rubber and adapting the process to all uses of bio-butadiene, lowering investment costs and preparing the future French bio-sourced synthetic rubber industry.
Over $70 million (£43.5 million) will be invested in the project in the next eight years, according to Michelin, although it is unclear how much each involved partner will provide. Around $20 million of funding will come from the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management.
Terry Gettys, director of research and development at Michelin, said: "This joint research with Axens/IFP and is an excellent opportunity for Michelin to find sustainable supply new avenues for elastomers, which are necessary for the quality of our tyres.
Axens is set to use the project as an "opportunity to strengthen its expertise and market presence conversion processes of biomass in the field of biofuels and bio-based chemicals," according to Jean-Luc Nocca, vice-president, executive in charge of technological development and innovation.
Pascal Barthélémy, executive vice-president of IFPEN, which is also involved in BioButterfly, said the project is in line with the firm's strategy to develop new ways of making chemical intermediaries and biofuels.
Posted by Danielle Barge