Parthenium argentatum, commonly known as guayule, is a desert shrub cultivated as a domestic source of natural rubber in the semi-arid southwestern United States. Guayule natural rubber (GR) may be used to replace petroleum-based rubber or in place of Hevea natural rubber (NR), but substitution must take into consideration differences in physical and chemical properties. Currently, Hevea NR is required in tire applications, especially aircraft and truck tires, because of its high oxidative resistance, rapid cure rate, and exceptional stress–strain response. These outstanding features are attributed to the presence of nonrubber constituents, mainly proteins and lipids, which cause the rubber to gel, and they contribute to strain-induced crystallization. In contrast, GR is low in proteins and is thus deprived of some attributes of Hevea. Addition of amino acids and proteins to guayule could potentially improve performance and thereby widen the range of applications for use. In a previous study, amino acids blended with GR latex improved thermo-oxidative stability, served as plasticizers and cure accelerators, and enhanced green strength slightly, but tensile strength was not improved. Here, a series of bio-based commercial proteins (gelatin, soy, albumin, casein, zein, gliadin, and gluten) were added to GR as a latex blend. In general, protein addition reduced bulk viscosity and improved thermo-oxidative stability. The gel content and green strength of the polymer–protein blends were increased, with the exception of gliadin, but not to levels observed for Hevea. Effects on vulcanization and mechanical properties in compounds were surprisingly influenced by the choice of antioxidants used. Our results demonstrate the potential of proteins as bio-based rubber compounding additives.

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