The use of carbon black as black pigment for paints and inks goes back to the early civilizations of mankind. With the invention of the book printing in the fifteenth century, the demand for strong black pigment has steadily increased. Lamp black was the traditional carbon black initially used for these coloring purposes. In the first manufacturing processes of lamp black, wood was burnt smoldering under low air supply, and the smoke passed into a cone-like soot chamber where the carbon black settled on the walls of metal, linen, or wool. The charred wood was sold as charcoal.
In the early 1900s, lamp black producer Binney & Smith, later well-known for their crayon products, began selling their carbon black chemicals to Goodrich Tire Company. They discovered that the use of carbon black in rubber manufacturing significantly increased certain desirable qualities for the rubber meant to be turned into tires. In 1904 Sidney Charles Mote and a team of experimenters in England discovered the reinforcing effect that carbon black adds to rubber, and some years later this beneficial effect became common knowledge and general practice in tire tread compounding.
In addition to reinforcement, the resistance of carbon black to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and its function as an ozone scavenger stabilizes the tire rubber against UV light and oxidation, as well as prevents the rubber tire from fissuring or cracking. Adding carbon black avoids electrostatic charging and helps to conduct heat away from certain hot spots on the tire, specifically in the tread and belt areas. This reduces thermal damage on the tire and extends its lifespan. The first larger industrial manufacturing plants for tire blacks utilized channel black processes and produced a very low carbon black yield using natural gas that was a by-product in oil production.
Since the 1950s, the channel black process has replaced by the furnace black process and is no longer practiced today. Nearly all carbon black used in today’s tires is produced by the furnace black process. Modern tires compose several different rubber compounds each containing special elastomers and special carbon black grades needed for peak performance.