The global effort to reduce CO2 emissions means that manufacturing companies are now facing growing pressure and regulatory compulsion to decarbonise supply chains and minimise their carbon footprint. Carbon Black (vCB) is a frequently used resource for manufacturing products in the tire, rubber, and plastics industries. Reducing the environmental impact of vCB is needed to comply with ambitious climate strategies and adopting a circular approach is a solution.
What is virgin Carbon Black?
Carbon Black, in its virgin form, is an industrially manufactured product. It’s made by heating a hydrocarbon fuel (such as coal tar or gas), to extremely high temperatures in a specially designed furnace.
The feedstock is sprayed as a droplet and heated in a reactor to a temperature between 1,420°C and 1,980°C (2,600 to 3,600°F), where it decomposes.
Partial combustions are strictly controlled and as a result, tiny carbon molecules within the reactor are being formed. At a certain point, the reaction is stopped with intensive cooling using water spray.
The microscopic particles are known as Carbon Black aggregates and consist of between 95 and 99 per cent pure carbon. The aggregate is then refined into Carbon Black pellets of a regular size and consistent shape, ready for packaging and distribution.
20 million tonnes
Over 70% of global capacity
Carbon Black applications
Carbon Black (vCB) is added as an active ingredient in the manufacture of tires and other rubber products to improve their strength and durability. It’s also used in plastic products such as mechanical parts, cable shielding and insulation, pipes, food contact grade products, and high-performance coatings.
Carbon Black in tires
Carbon Black (vCB) is in widespread use in tire manufacturing. It has historically been the tire reinforcing agent of choice due to its abrasion resistance and high tensile strength properties. This makes it ideal for sidewalls, treads, and inner liners.
It also acts as a heat conductor to help cool the tread and extend the lifespan of the tire. vCB is commonly found in grades such as N330, N550, N650, N660, and N772.
However, due to high CO2 emissions generated during the manufacturing process of vCB, tire manufacturers are moving towards alternative reinforcing agents.
Frequently asked questions about Carbon Black
01. What is virgin Carbon Black?
Virgin Carbon Black (vCB) is a fine, powdered carbon product that is produced in its virgin form as a product of the incomplete combustion of tar, heavy oil, natural gas, or other petroleum-based fuel.
02. What is Carbon Black used for?
Carbon Black is used as a pigment to add colour to plastic products, paint, coatings, and ink.
It’s also widely used in tire manufacturing as a filler that has reinforcing properties in rubber compounds. Carbon Black is also commonly used in non-tire rubber products and plastic polymers.
03. What are the different grades of Carbon Black?
There are dozens of different grades of Carbon Black.
Most Carbon Black rubber grades start with the prefix “N”, such as N120 or N234. The prefix is related to the curing time of rubber compound – N is for normal.
There are dozens of Carbon Black grades and each grade has slightly different properties and potential uses, such as reinforcing, non-reinforcing, and semi-reinforcing.
In general, the lower the number after the “N” prefix, means that a particular grade provides higher levels of reinforcement.
04. What is the difference between virgin Carbon Black and recycled Carbon Black?
Virgin Carbon Black (vCB) and recovered Carbon Black (rCB) differ in the way that they’re produced.
vCB is mostly made in a furnace process that emits high levels of CO2, whereas rCB is extracted from end-of-life tires using thermal decomposition, a process that produces far less CO2 – as well as solving the global ELT waste problem by recovering valuable materials.
Cleaner opportunity: rCB
Rather than generating excessive amounts of CO2 emissions by using vCB, many rubber manufacturers are now considering recovered Carbon Black as an option.
Recovered Carbon Black (rCB) is extracted from used tires through thermal decomposition, which breaks the tire down to oil, gas, and carbon char.
This carbon char is further processed to meet quality and handling standards and fits neatly into the supply chain as a vCB alternative.Learn More