Goodyear Engineers Use Volcanic Sand to Improve Tire Traction

While reports circulate about the possibility of another eruption of the Mt. St. Helens volcanic crater, engineers and scientists at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company continue to develop unique products that make positive use of the byproducts of such lava flows.

One of the key elements in the new Goodyear Assurance featuring TripleTred Technology(TM) is volcanic sand, used in the tire's Ice Zone to create a rough surface on the treadface. As the tire is used, the volcanic sand "grit" presents microscopic cavities that work as tiny traction edges for better grip on slick surfaces.

"The volcanic sand is added to the tire as a ground pumice material in the rubber," said Michael Crawford, Goodyear's technical team leader for light tire materials. "The pumice creates a constantly rough and textured surface that proves very effective in delivering the kind of grip that drivers demand."

As scientists and seismologists from the U.S. Geological Survey monitor the recent disturbances at Mt. St. Helens, residents in the Pacific Northwest have begun to feel uneasy about the prospects of another eruption at the Oregon site. A May 1980 eruption leveled hundreds of square miles of forests and dumped volcanic ash across the region.

The volcanic material used in Goodyear's TripleTred tire actually comes from southeastern Idaho. The unique tire ingredient is mined from an area near Malad City, where several volcanoes blasted away millions of years ago.

"The material we provide began as magma in the earth. When it erupted through the surface, it transformed from a liquid to a highly porous product known as Amorphous Aluminum Silicate," said Joe Thomas, of Hess Pumice Products, the world's largest supplier of finely ground processed pumice. "In effect, it is volcanic sand, non-crystalline in nature and with abrasive qualities."

Such volcanic pumice also is used in everyday products such as soaps and cleaning materials, glass, cement and plastics.

For Goodyear engineers, the volcanic material plays an important role in the special rubber recipe used in the Assurance featuring TripleTred Technology. The tire features three zones -- Water Zone, Ice Zone and Dry Zone -- that promote superior traction in any kind of weather. This lets drivers confidently take on rain-drenched highways, icy or snowy roads, or unanticipated situations on dry pavement.

The Water Zone, consisting of deeply carved Aquachutes, propels water away from the tire's tread on rain-drenched roads.

An interlocking tread pattern in the Ice Zone translates into more gripping power on icy or snow-covered roads.

A Dry Zone features reinforced tire shoulders for confident maneuvering around curves, potholes and unexpected road debris on dry pavement.

The volcanic sand in the tire's "winter formulated compound" is complemented by the use of glass fibers. These tiny fibers are designed to create a pitted surface in the tread that "resembles a textured lunar surface," according to Crawford.

Further consumer satisfaction is created with the new Driver Assurance Package, which includes the following:

  • 80,000-mile treadlife limited warranty
  • 30-Day No Obligation Trial Period
  • Roadside assistance program
  • Nationwide warranty service
  • On-line product registration
  • Tire rotation reminder service

"It is our challenge to constantly search for new technology, even in volcanic sand, to allow Goodyear to provide any possible breakthroughs that deliver real performance advantages to our customers," Crawford said.

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