The development of ultra-high-performance tires that satisfy fuel efficiency, traction, handling performance, and abrasion resistance has gained significant importance in the tire industry. Solution SBR has been used as a raw material, owing to its useful characteristics (e.g., narrow dispersity controllable microstructure and chain-end functionalization). In a recent improvement, emulsion SBR (ESBR), a high-molecular-weight compound with narrow dispersity, has been reported for application in the tire tread compounds. In particular, S,S-dibenzyl trithiocarbonate (DBTC) reversible addition-fragmentation transfer (RAFT) ESBR has exhibited excellent abrasion resistance and fuel efficiency in unfilled and carbon black–filled vulcanizates. However, owing to the symmetrical structure of DBTC RAFT ESBR, the polymer chain was shortened by the reaction of a silane coupling agent with trithiocarbonate, leading to poor abrasion resistance and fuel efficiency in the case of silica-filled vulcanizates. In this study, benzyl (4-methoxyphenyl) trithiocarbonate (BMPTC), an asymmetric RAFT agent that promotes unilateral polymer growth, was synthesized and used in the polymerization of BMPTC RAFT ESBR. Chain cleavage was not observed. Upon application to silica-filled vulcanizates, BMPTC RAFT ESBR exhibited improved abrasion resistance (by 9%), improved fuel efficiency (by 20%), and improved wet traction performance (by 10%) compared with the DBTC RAFT ESBR.

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