Yulex Corporation applies crop science, bioprocessing and materials science for the production of agricultural-based biomaterials made from Guayule (Parthenium argentatum). The company's materials are designed to replace traditional tropical- or petroleum-based rubber in consumer, industrial, and medical products, with the residual agricultural materials utilized as a feedstock for bioenergy.
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Guayule first emerged as a commercial crop in Mexico the early 1900s through the Continental Mexican Rubber Company, though it ceased operation in 1912. In the 1920s the Intercontinental Rubber Company (IRC) was formed in San Diego, California by the Rockefeller family, though this venture also failed as a result of the Great Depression and increased imports of tropical rubber from Southeast Asia.
In the 1930s the United States accelerated its research efforts into polybutadiene and styrene butadiene rubber after significant technological advances were made in Germany with synthetic polymers. America's supply of natural rubber from Southeast Asia was cut off by the Japanese during World War II. Congress passed legislation to finance the Emergency Rubber Project to develop guayule as a commercial alternative to tropical rubber.
Seeking alternative sources of natural rubber, the U.S. Government purchased the Intercontinental Rubber Company's holdings in California, and also began the commercial scale up of polybutadiene and styrene butadiene rubber. Over 32,000 acres of guayule were commercially farmed in California and Arizona. While the yields from those stands of plants were not sufficient to be commercially viable, the demands of war supported the concept of rubber production at any cost and demonstrated guayule's excellent performance characteristics in a broad variety of applications. The U.S. Government abandoned guayule production efforts following the war.
Yulex Corporation was founded in 2000 and began a dedicated Guayule acreage expansion program, planting acreage in Arizona in the Maricopa Agriculture Center (an enterprise associated with the University of Arizona). This program was subsequently expanded to the commercial farming community to provide enough high-yielding seed to grow commercial quantities of guayule plant.
In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Yulex biorubber gloves for medical uses. Yulex is the first company to produce biobased, medical-grade latex that is safe for people with latex allergy.
In 2012, Yulex received a $6.9 million USDA-DoE grant as part of a research consortium. Partnering with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Cooper Tire, Yulex will research enhanced manufacturing processes, testing and utilization of guayule natural rubber as a strategic source of raw material in tires, and evaluate the remaining biomass of the guayule plant as a source of bio-fuel for the transportation industry, as well work on improving agronomic practices, developing genetic information and undertaking a lifecycle analysis.
Also in 2012, Yulex released the first alternative to the traditional neoprene wetsuit in partnership with Patagonia, the first guayule-based mattresses and pillows in partnership with Pure LatexBliss, and the first plant-based, latex allergy-friendly dental dam in partnership with 4D Rubber.
In 2013, Yulex formed a partnership with ENI's Versalis to expand the reach of guayule into European markets.