The Pirelli Research Centres, present in 13 countries worldwide, count on 1200 full-time researchers and as many other people involved in the open innovation projects activated with other organisations. Pirelli has sealed agreements with no fewer than 14 prestigious universities worldwide, many suppliers and over 100 partnerships with Premium auto makers. Over 150 projects focusing on materials, processes and information technology have been kicked off. These numbers clearly indicate the effort and the commitment of Pirelli R&D. The process culminates in Formula 1®, and in motorsports in general, where innovations on compounds, modelling and processes become the proving grounds for experience that can be then transferred to everyday roads.
The Premium segment
From the Scorpion Verde, the first high-performance eco-friendly tyre for SUVs and crossovers to the Cinturato P1, the very high-tech Pirelli product for small and mid-size engines and the Cinturato P7 Blue, some sizes of which received at double “A” European label for wet braking and rolling resistance performance: these are only some of the Pirelli products which stand out for their safety and their lower environmental impact and are the result of major corporate investments on R&D activities focused mainly on compounds and on tread structures and patterns.
The R&D philosophy adopted by Pirelli ensures that products can achieve outstanding performance in terms of braking on dry and wet roads, in addition to improved environmental performance, like decreased rolling resistance, which means lower carbon dioxide emissions and less noise. Results also include increased mileage, which extends the working life of a tyre, and improved retreading potential for truck tyres to decrease waste.
The rise of the smart tyre: from the Cyber Fleet to the Cyber Tyre
Designed for trucks and buses, the Pirelli Cyber Fleet system uses sensors positioned in the tyres and computerised systems to provide information on the tyre operating temperature and pressure to fleet manages and drivers with the goal for rationalising maintenance costs and fuel consumption as well as, more obviously, improving safety.
This is the first application of the Cyber Tyre, an innovative system developed in partnership with the Milan Polytechnic.
The Pirelli Cyber Tyre is a system consisting of a sensor inserted inside the tyre to read the conditions of the road and interface with the on-board computer and the electronic control systems of the vehicle. The system accurately detects vehicle running conditions in real time intervening when dangers are still only potential to the advantage of maximum safety. By acting in real time, the Cyber Tyre interprets, processes and transmits information to the on-board computer and to all safety systems.
Not only safety: the Pirelli research also concerns raw materials of plant origin to design tyres which are more sustainable and higher performing.
Joint Development Agreements are promoted by Pirelli in third direction to focus on new polymers to improve rolling resistance, low-temperature performance, mileage and road-holding. Following the open innovation model, Pirelli works with universities to develop a natural rubber derived from sources other than rubber trees: the goal of this project is to diversify the possible sources of raw materials, thus decreasing pressure on biodiversity in producing companies and allowing the company to deal with the possibility of short supplies of raw materials. Other study area concerns a new selective devulcanisation technology for recycling materials deriving from end-of-life tyres with the goal of significantly reducing manufacturing costs and the respective environmental impact.
From bio-materials to carbon black, the Pirelli R&D activities focus on various raw materials, like silicon dioxide, which is used in tyres to reduce rolling resistance and increase vehicle efficiency without decreasing road-holding capabilities, particularly on wet surfaces. In 2009 Pirelli kicked off in Brazil an eco-sustainability process capable of extracting silicon dioxide from rice husks, which is the main waste of this type of crop. Nothing goes to waste!