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Title:
TIRE TREAD RUBBER COMPOSITION
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/213229
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Disclosed herein are tire tread rubber compositions comprising a specified elastomer component, reinforcing silica filler, a specified hydrocarbon resin, oil, and a cure package. The elastomer component includes styrene-butadiene rubber; polybutadiene; and natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof.

Inventors:
GALIZIO, Benjamin C. (7440 Sylvan Drive, Kent, Ohio, 44240, US)
COFFMAN, Anthony (540 Belmont Park Drive, Munroe Falls, Ohio, 44262, US)
Application Number:
US2019/030162
Publication Date:
November 07, 2019
Filing Date:
May 01, 2019
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
BRIDGESTONE AMERICAS TIRE OPERATIONS, LLC (200 4th Avenue, SouthNashville, Tennessee, 37201, US)
International Classes:
C08L9/06; B60C1/00; C08K3/04; C08K3/36; C08K5/09; C08L7/00; C08L9/00; C08L19/00; C08L25/00
Foreign References:
US20170114212A12017-04-27
US20170342252A12017-11-30
US20170037225A12017-02-09
US20170334244A12017-11-23
US20040122157A12004-06-24
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HOOKER, Meredith E. et al. (10 East Firestone Blvd, Akron, Ohio, 44317, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire comprising

a. 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising

i. 5-40 parts of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C,

ii. 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C, and

iii. 21-55 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; b. 80-140 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m2/g;

c. 30-50 phr of at least one hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C;

d. 10-30 phr of oil; and e. a cure package.

2. The tire tread rubber composition of claim 1, wherein the hydrocarbon resin of (d) comprises an aromatic resin.

3. The tire tread rubber composition of claim 2, wherein the aromatic hydrocarbon resin comprises a vinyl aromatic homopolymer or copolymer resin.

4. A tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire comprising

a. 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising

i. 5-40 parts of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C,

ii. 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C,

iii. 21-55 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; b. 90-130 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m2/g; c. 30-50 phr of at least one aromatic hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C;

d. 10-30 phr of oil; and

e. a cure package.

5. The tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1-4, containing no more than 20 phr of reinforcing carbon black filler.

6. The tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1-5, wherein (ii) comprises at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a silica-reactive functional group.

7. A tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire comprising

a. 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising

i. 10-30 parts of polybutadiene having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C,

ii. 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -65 °C and having a silica-reactive functional group, iii. 31-50 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; b. 100-130 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 140 m2/g and no more than 20 phr of carbon black filler, c. 30-50 phr of at least one aromatic hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C,

d. 10-24 phr of oil, and

e. a cure package.

8. The tire tread rubber composition of claim 6 or 7, wherein the silica- functionalized styrene-butadiene rubber(s) of (ii) have a Mw of 300,000 to 600,000

grams/mole.

9. The tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1-8, wherein the average Tg of the elastomer component is -65 to -80 °C.

10. The tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1-9, wherein the rubber composition has a value for tan d at 60 °C of 0.18 to 0.25 and meets at least one of the following

a. has a value for tan d at -30 °C of at least 3 times the tan d at 60 °C value,

preferably between 3 times and 4 times the tan d at 60 °C value; b. has a value for tan d at 0 °C of at least 2 times the tan d at 60 °C value, preferably between 2.2 times and 3 times the tan d at 60 °C value; or

c. has a value for tan d at 30 °C of at least 1.1 times the tan d at 60 °C value,

preferably between 1.1 times and 2 times the tan d at 60 °C value.

11. The tire tread rubber composition of claim 9, wherein each of (a), (b), and (c) are met.

12. The tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1 to 11, wherein the oil of (e) comprises a plant oil.

13. The tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1 to 12, wherein the hydrocarbon resin of (d) includes less than 5 phr of terpene resin, preferably 0 phr of terpene resin.

14. The tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1 to IB, wherein no more than 10 phr of carbon black is present.

15. The tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1 to 14, wherein the polybutadiene rubber of (i) has less than 3% by weight syndiotactic 1,2-polybutadiene, preferably 0%.

16. A tire including a tread comprising the tire tread rubber composition of any one of claims 1 to 15.

Description:
TIRE TREAD RUBBER COMPOSITION

FIELD

[0001] The present application is directed to a rubber composition for use in tire treads.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Tires comprise many components including a road-contacting tread. The particular ingredients used in the rubber composition which comprises the tire tread may vary. Formulation of tire tread rubber compositions is a complex science since changes to the formulation which result in an improvement in one property (e.g., rolling resistance) may result in deterioration of another property (e.g., dry traction).

SUMMARY

[0003] Disclosed herein are rubber compositions for use in tire treads.

[0004] In a first embodiment, a tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire is disclosed. The composition comprises (a) 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising: (i) 5-40 parts of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C , and (iii) 21-55 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; (b) 80-140 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m 2 /g; (c) 30-50 phr of at least one hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C, preferably about 35 to about 45 °C; (d) 10-30 phr of oil; and (e) a cure package.

[0005] In a second embodiment, a tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire is disclosed. The composition comprises (a) 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising (i) 5- 40 parts of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C, (iii) 21-55 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; (b) 90-130 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m 2 /g; (c) 30-50 phr of at least one aromatic hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C, preferably about 35 to about 45 °C; (d) 10-30 phr of oil; and (e) a cure package. [0006] In a third embodiment, a tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire is disclosed. The composition comprises: (a) 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising (i) 10-30 parts of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -65 °C and having a silica-reactive functional group, (iii) 31-50 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; (b) 100-130 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 140 m 2 /g and no more than 20 phr of carbon black filler, (c) 30-50 phr of at least one aromatic hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C; (d) 10-24 phr of oil; and (e) a cure package.

[0007] In a fourth embodiment, a tire including a tread comprising the tire tread rubber composition according to the first embodiment, the second embodiment, or the third embodiment is disclosed.

[0008] In a fifth embodiment, a process is provided for preparing a tire tread rubber composition according to any one of the first, second, or third embodiments, wherein the process comprises utilizing ingredients as described herein for the first, second, or third embodiment, respectively. In other words, according to the fifth embodiment, the tire tread rubber composition is made from ingredients as described herein for the first, second, or third embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0009] Disclosed herein are rubber compositions for use in tire treads.

[0010] In a first embodiment, a tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire is disclosed. The composition comprises (a) 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising: (i) 5-40 parts of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C , and (iii) 21-55 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; (b) 80-140 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m 2 /g; (c) 30-50 phr of at least one hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C, preferably about 35 to about 45 °C; (d) 10-30 phr of oil; and (e) a cure package. [0011] In a second embodiment, a tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire is disclosed. The composition comprises (a) 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising (i) 5- 40 parts of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C, (iii) 21-55 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; (b) 90-130 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m 2 /g; (c) 30-50 phr of at least one aromatic hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C, preferably about 35 to about 45 °C; (d) 10-30 phr of oil; and (e) a cure package.

[0012] In a third embodiment, a tire tread rubber composition for an all weather tire is disclosed. The composition comprises: (a) 100 parts of an elastomer component comprising (i) 10-30 parts of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -65 °C and having a silica-reactive functional group, (iii) 31-50 parts of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof; (b) 100-130 phr of at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 140 m 2 /g and no more than 20 phr of carbon black filler, (c) 30-50 phr of at least one aromatic hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C; (d) 10-24 phr of oil; and (e) a cure package.

[0013] In a fourth embodiment, a tire including a tread comprising the tire tread rubber composition according to the first embodiment, the second embodiment, or the third embodiment is disclosed.

[0014] In a fifth embodiment, a process is provided for preparing a tire tread rubber composition according to any one of the first, second, or third embodiments, wherein the process comprises utilizing ingredients as described herein for the first, second, or third embodiment, respectively. In other words, according to the fifth embodiment, the tire tread rubber composition is made from ingredients as described herein for the first, second, or third embodiments. Definitions

[0015] The terminology as set forth herein is for description of the embodiments only and should not be construed as limiting the invention as a whole.

[0016] As used herein, the phrase "all weather tire" refers to a tire designed for performance not only under wet and dry conditions but also under low temperature snow and ice conditions.

[0017] As used herein, the term "majority" refers to more than 50%.

[0018] As used herein, the abbreviation Mn is used for number average molecular weight.

[0019] As used herein, the abbreviation Mp is used for peak molecular weight.

[0020] As used herein, the abbreviation Mw is used for weight average molecular weight.

[0021] Unless otherwise indicated herein, the term "Mooney viscosity" refers to the Mooney viscosity, ML I+4 . As those of skill in the art will understand, a rubber composition's Mooney viscosity is measured prior to vulcanization or curing.

[0022] As used herein, the term "natural rubber" means naturally occurring rubber such as can be harvested from sources such as Hevea rubber trees and non-Hevea sources (e.g., guayule shrubs and dandelions such as TKS). In other words, the term "natural rubber" should be construed so as to exclude synthetic polyisoprene.

[0023] As used herein, the term "phr" means parts per one hundred parts rubber. The one hundred parts rubber is also referred to herein as 100 parts of an elastomer component.

[0024] As used herein the term "polyisoprene" means synthetic polyisoprene. In other words, the term is used to indicate a polymer that is manufactured from isoprene monomers, and should not be construed as including naturally occurring rubber (e.g., Hevea natural rubber, guayule-sourced natural rubber, or dandelion-sourced natural rubber). However, the term polyisoprene should be construed as including polyisoprenes manufactured from natural sources of isoprene monomer.

[0025] As used herein, the term "tread," refers to both the portion of a tire that comes into contact with the road under normal inflation and load as well as any subtread. Tire Tread Rubber Composition

[0026] As mentioned above, the first-third embodiments are directed to a tire tread rubber composition. The subject rubber compositions are used in preparing treads for tires, generally by a process which includes forming of a tread pattern by molding and curing one of the subject rubber compositions. Thus, the tire treads will contain a cured form of one of the tire tread rubber compositions. The tire tread rubber compositions may be present in the form of a tread which has been formed but not yet incorporated into a tire and/or they may be present in a tread which forms part of a tire.

[0027] According to the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the Tg of the overall rubber composition may vary. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the rubber composition has a Tg of about -35 to about -20 °C. In certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the rubber composition has a Tg of -35 to -20 °C (e.g., -35, -34, -33, -32, - 31, -30, -29, -28, -27, -26, -25, -24, -23, -22, -21, or -20 °C), about -35 to about -25, -35 to -25 (e.g., -35, -34, -33, -32, -31, -30, -29, -28, -27, -26, or -25 °C), about -30 to about -20 °C, or -30 to -20 °C (e.g. -30, -29, -28, -27, -26, -25, -24, -23, -22, -21, or -20 °C).

Elastomer Component

[0028] As mentioned above, according to the first-fourth embodiments, the tire tread rubber composition comprises (includes) 100 parts of an elastomer component. The ingredients of the elastomer component include polybutadiene rubber; at least one styrene-butadiene rubber; and natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof. The total amount of 100 parts of elastomer or rubber is used so that the amount of other ingredients may be listed in amounts of phr or the number of parts per hundred parts rubber (or 100 parts of the elastomer component). As a non-limiting example, for a rubber composition containing 45 parts of styrene- butadiene rubber, 10 parts of polybutadiene rubber, and 45 parts of natural rubber and 100 parts of reinforcing silica filler, the amount of silica filler can also be described as 100 phr.

[0029] As mentioned above, according to the first embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) (i) 5-40 parts (e.g., 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, or 40 parts) of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than - 101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts (e.g., 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, or 50 parts) of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C, and (iii) 21-55 parts [e.g., 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 35, 40, 45, or 50 parts) of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof. In certain embodiments of the first embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (i) 5-30 parts (e.g., 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 37, 28, 29, or 30 parts), 10-40 parts (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, or 40 parts), 10-30 parts (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, or 30 parts), 10-20 parts (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, or 20 parts), or 10-15 parts (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15 parts) of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C. In certain embodiments of the first embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (ii) 20-50 parts (e.g., 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 32,

34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts), 25-55 parts (e.g., 25, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 35, 36,

38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, or 55 parts), 30-50 parts (e.g., 30, 32, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42,

44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts), or 35-40 parts (e.g., 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, or 40 parts) of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C. In certain embodiments of the first embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (iii) 30-55 parts (e.g., 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, or 55 parts), 40-55 parts (e.g., 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, or 55 parts), 35-50 parts (e.g., 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts), or 40-50 parts (e.g., 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts) of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof. In certain embodiments of the first embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component consists (only) of (i), (ii), and (iii), in amounts as discussed above. In other embodiments of the first embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component includes in addition to (i), (ii) and (iii), one or more additional rubbers (iv). According to the first embodiment, when one or more additional rubbers (iv) is present, the amount will generally be limited, preferably to no more than 20 parts (e.g., 20 parts, 15 parts, 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), no more than 15 parts (e.g., 15 parts, 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), no more than 10 parts (e.g., 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), or no more than 5 parts (e.g., 5 parts, 4 parts, 3 parts, 2 parts, 1 part, or less). In certain embodiments of the first embodiment, one or more additional rubbers (iv) are selected from diene monomer-containing rubbers; in certain such embodiments, the one or more additional rubbers (iv) are selected from the group consisting of styrene-isoprene rubber, butadiene-isoprene-rubber, styrene-isoprene-butadiene rubber, butyl rubber (both halogenated and non-halogenated), ethylene-propylene rubber (EPR), ethylene-butylene rubber (EBR), ethylene-propylene-diene rubber (EPDM), and combinations thereof. In yet other embodiments of the first embodiment, the one or more additional rubbers are selected from one or more polybutadiene rubbers other than the polybutadiene rubber (i), e.g., a BR having a cis bond content of less than 95% e.g., a polybutadiene having a low cis 1, 4 bond content (e.g., a polybutadiene having a cis 1,4 bond content of less than 50%, less than 45%, less than 40%, etc.) and/or a Tg of less than -101 °C; from a styrene-butadiene rubber other than the styrene- butadiene polymer (ii), e.g., a SBR that has a Tg of greater than -50 °C or less than -75 °C; from a diene-monomer containing rubber other than the natural rubber or polyisoprene (iii); or a combination thereof.

[0030] As mentioned above, according to the second embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) (i) 5-40 parts (e.g., 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, or 40 parts) of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts (e.g., 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or 55 parts) of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C, (iii) 21-50 parts (e.g., 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 35, 40, 45, or 50 parts) of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof. In certain embodiments of the second embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (i) 5-30 parts (e.g., 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, or 30 parts), 10-40 parts (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, or 40 parts), 10-30 parts (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, or 30 parts) or 10-15 parts (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15 parts) of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C. In certain embodiments of the second embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (ii) 30-50 parts (e.g., 30, 32, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts) or 35-40 parts (e.g., 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, or 40 parts) of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C. In certain embodiments of the second embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (iii) 30-50 parts (e.g., 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts), 40-55 parts (e.g., 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, or 55 parts), 35-50 parts (e.g., 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts), or 40-50 parts (e.g., 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts) of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof. In certain embodiments of the second embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component consists (only) of (i), (ii), and (iii), in amounts as discussed above. In other embodiments of the second embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component includes in addition to (i), (ii) and (iii), one or more additional rubbers (iv). According to the second embodiment, when one or more additional rubbers (iv) is present, the amount will generally be limited preferably to no more than 20 parts (e.g., 20 parts, 15 parts, 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), no more than 15 parts (e.g., 15 parts, 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), no more than 10 parts (e.g., 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), or no more than 5 parts (e.g., 5 parts, 4 parts, 3 parts, 2 parts, 1 part, or less). In certain embodiments of the second embodiment, one or more additional rubbers (iv) are selected from diene monomer-containing rubbers; in certain such embodiments, the one or more additional rubbers (iv) are selected from the group consisting of styrene-isoprene rubber, butadiene-isoprene-rubber, styrene-isoprene-butadiene rubber, butyl rubber (both halogenated and non-halogenated), ethylene-propylene rubber (EPR), ethylene- butylene rubber (EBR), ethylene-propylene-diene rubber (EPDM), and combinations thereof. In yet other embodiments of the second embodiment, the one or more additional rubbers are selected from one or more polybutadiene rubbers other than the polybutadiene rubber (i), e.g., a BR having a cis bond content of less than 95% e.g., a polybutadiene having a low cis 1, 4 bond content (e.g., a polybutadiene having a cis 1,4 bond content of less than 50%, less than 45%, less than 40%, etc.) and/or a Tg of less than -101 °C; from a styrene-butadiene rubber other than the styrene-butadiene polymer (ii), e.g., a SBR that has a Tg of greater than -50 °C or less than -75 °C; from a diene-monomer containing rubber other than the natural rubber or polyisoprene (iii); or a combination thereof.

[0031] As mentioned above, according to the third embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) (i) 10-30 parts (e.g., 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 parts) of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C, (ii) 20-55 parts (e.g., 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or 55 parts) of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -65 °C and having a silica-reactive functional group, (iii) 31-50 parts (e.g., 31, 35, 40, 45, or 50 parts) of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof. In certain embodiments of the third embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (i) 15-30 parts (e.g., 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28,

29, or 30 parts), 10-25 (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, or 25 parts), or 10-15 parts (e.g., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15 parts) of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C. In certain embodiments of the third embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (ii) 30-50 parts (e.g.,

30, 32, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts) or 35-40 parts (e.g., 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, or 40 parts) of at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -65 °C. In certain embodiments of the third embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component comprises (includes) as (iii) 35-50 parts (e.g., 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts) or 40-50 parts (e.g., 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 parts) of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof. In certain embodiments of the third embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component consists (only) of (i), (ii), and (iii), in amounts as discussed above. In other embodiments of the third embodiment, the 100 parts of elastomer component includes in addition to (i), (ii) and (iii), one or more additional rubbers (iv). According to the third embodiment, when one or more additional rubbers (iv) is present, the amount will generally be limited preferably to no more than 20 parts (e.g., 20 parts, 15 parts, 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), no more than 15 parts (e.g., 15 parts, 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), no more than 10 parts (e.g., 10 parts, 5 parts, or less), or no more than 5 parts (e.g., 5 parts, 4 parts, 3 parts, 2 parts, 1 part, or less). In certain embodiments of the third embodiment, one or more additional rubbers (iv) are selected from diene monomer-containing rubbers; in certain such embodiments, the one or more additional rubbers (iv) are selected from the group consisting of styrene-isoprene rubber, butadiene-isoprene-rubber, styrene-isoprene- butadiene rubber, butyl rubber (both halogenated and non-halogenated), ethylene-propylene rubber (EPR), ethylene-butylene rubber (EBR), ethylene-propylene-diene rubber (EPDM), and combinations thereof. In yet other embodiments of the third embodiment, the one or more additional rubbers are selected from one or more polybutadiene rubbers other than the polybutadiene rubber (i), e.g., a BR having a cis bond content of less than 95% e.g., a polybutadiene having a low cis 1, 4 bond content (e.g., a polybutadiene having a cis 1,4 bond content of less than 50%, less than 45%, less than 40%, etc.) and/or a Tg of less than -101 °C; from a styrene-butadiene rubber other than the styrene-butadiene polymer (ii), e.g., a SBR that has a Tg of greater than -50 °C or less than -75 °C; from a diene-monomer containing rubber other than the natural rubber or polyisoprene (iii); or a combination thereof.

[0032] According to the first-fourth embodiments, (i) of the elastomer component consists of polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% (e.g., 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, or more) and a Tg of less than -101 °C (e.g., -102, -103, -104, -105, -106, -107, -108, - 109 °C or less), or a Tg of -101 to -110 °C, -105 to -110 °C, or -105 to -108 °C. The cis bond content refers to the cis 1,4-bond content. In certain embodiments of the first -fourth embodiments, the polybutadiene rubber may have a cis 1,4-bond content of at least 98% (e.g., 98%, 99%, or more) or at least 99% (e.g., 99%, 99.5%, or more). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, any polybutadiene rubber used in the tread rubber compositions has a Tg of -105 °C or less (e.g., -105, -106, -107, -108, -109 °C or less). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, any polybutadiene rubber used in the tread rubber compositions contains less than 3% by weight (e.g., 3%, 2%, 1%, 0.5%, or less), preferably less than 1% by weight (e.g., 1%, 0.5%, or less) or 0% by weight syndiotactic 1,2-polybutadiene. Generally, according to the first- fourth embodiments, one or more than one polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% and a Tg of less than -101 °C may be used for (i). In certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, (i) consists of only one polybutadiene rubber having a cis bond content of at least 95% (e.g., 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, or more) and a Tg of less than -101 °C.

[0033] According to the first-fourth embodiments, (iii) of the elastomer component consists of natural rubber, polyisoprene, or a combination thereof. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, (iii) consists (only) of natural rubber. In other embodiments of the first embodiment, (iii) consists (only) of polyisoprene. When natural rubber is present for (iii) of the elastomer component, it may include Hevea natural rubber, non -Hevea natural rubber (e.g., guayule natural rubber), or a combination thereof. When natural rubber is utilized in the tread rubber compositions of the first-fourth embodiments, the natural rubber preferably has a Mw of l,000,000 to 2,000,000 grams/mole (e.g., 1 million, 1.1 million, 1.2 million, 1.3 million, 1.4 million, 1.5 million, 1.6 million, 1.7 million, 1.8 million, 1.9 million, 2 million grams/mole); 1,250,000 to 2,000,000 grams/mole, or 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 grams/mole (as measured by GPC using a polystyrene standard). In preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, any natural rubber or polyisoprene present in the tread rubber composition is non-epoxidized; in certain such embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains no more than 10 phr of epoxidized natural rubber or epoxidized polyisoprene, preferably no more than 5 phr of epoxidized natural rubber or epoxidized polyisoprene, more preferably 0 phr of epoxidized natural rubber or epoxidized polyisoprene.

[0034] According to the first and second embodiments and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment, the elastomer component comprises (includes) as (ii) at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C, including a Tg of -50 to -75 °C (e.g., -50, -51, -52, -53, -54, -55, -56, -57, -58, -59, -60, -61, -62, -63, -64, -65, -66, -67, -68, -69, - 70, -71, -72, -73, -74, or -75 °C). In other words, (ii) of the elastomer component can be understood as consisting (only) of one or more styrene-butadiene rubbers having a Tg of about - 50 to about -75 °C. According to the first-fourth embodiments, (ii) of the elastomer component includes at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C; in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, one or more additional SBRs is included which will not necessarily have a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C, although such an SBR would be considered an additional rubber, as discussed above. According to the third embodiment and in certain embodiments of the first, second and fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene- butadiene rubber of (ii) has a Tg of about -50 to about -65 °C. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber has a Tg of -50 to -65 °C (e.g., -50, -51, -52, -53, -54, -55, -56, -57, -58, -59, -60, -61, -62, -63, -64, or -65 °C), a Tg of about -55 to about -65 °C, or a Tg of -55 to -65 °C (e.g., -55, -56, -57, -58, -59, -60, -61, -62, -63, -64, or - 65 °C). Overall, according to the first-fourth embodiments, one or more than one (e.g., two, three, or more) styrene-butadiene rubbers may be used as (ii). The styrene-butadiene rubber(s) of (ii) may be prepared by either solution polymerization or by emulsion polymerization. In certain preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the only styrene-butadiene rubbers used in (ii) are prepared by solution polymerization. In other embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the only styrene-butadiene rubbers used in (ii) are prepared by emulsion polymerization. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg as discussed infra which is used for (ii) may be a combination of solution polymerized SBR and emulsion polymerized SBR (e.g., one solution SBR and one emulsion SBR). In certain preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the elastomer component contains less than 20 parts (e.g., 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, or 0 parts) of emulsion SBR, less than 15 parts of emulsion SBR, less than 10 parts of emulsion SBR, no more than 5 parts of emulsion SBR, or 0 parts of emulsion SBR. In certain embodiments of the first -fourth embodiments, limitation of the amount of emulsion SBR (as discussed above) can be advantageous to the stiffness of the rubber composition and to achieving satisfactory rolling resistance performance.

[0035] As discussed above, according to the first and second embodiments and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment, the elastomer component includes as (ii) at least one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C, in an amount as discussed above; in certain such embodiments the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) is functionalized. According to the third embodiment and in certain embodiments of the first, second and fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) having a Tg of about -50 to about -65 °C is functionalized with a silica-reactive functional group. As used herein, the term functionalized should be understood to encompass the use of both functional groups and coupling agents. One or more than one type of functional group may be utilized for each functionalized SBR. Generally, a functional group may be present at the head of the polymer, at the tail of the polymer, along the backbone of the polymer chain, or a combination thereof. Functional groups present at one or both terminals of a polymer are generally the result of the use of a functional initiator, a functional terminator, or both. Alternatively or additionally, the functional group may be present as a result of coupling of multiple polymer chains using a coupling agent (as described below). According to the third embodiment and in certain preferred embodiments of the first, second, and fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) is functionalized, preferably with a silica-reactive functional group. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, (ii) consists (only) of one styrene-butadiene rubber having a Tg as discussed above; in certain such embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber is functionalized with a silica-reactive functional group. In other embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, (ii) consists of more than one styrene-butadiene rubber (e.g., two, three, or more) each having a Tg within a range as discussed above; in certain such embodiments, at least one of the styrene-butadiene rubbers is functionalized with a silica-reactive functional group. Non-limiting examples of silica-reactive functional groups generally include nitrogen- containing functional groups, silicon-containing functional groups, oxygen- or sulfur-containing functional groups, and metal-containing functional groups, as discussed in more detail below.

[0036] When a functionalized SBR is used in (ii) for certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the functionalization can be achieved by adding a functional group to one or both terminus of the polymer, by adding a functional group to the backbone of the poly (or a combination of the foregoing) or by coupling more than one polymer chains to a coupling agent, or by a combination thereof, such effects can be achieved by treating a living polymer with coupling agents, functionalizing agents, or a combination thereof which serve to couple and/or functionalize other chains. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functionalized SBR of (ii) contains one or more functional groups but is not coupled (i.e., does not contain any coupling agents). The coupling agent and/or functionalizing agent can be used at various molar ratios. Alternatively, in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functionalized styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) may be silica-reactive merely from the result of using a coupling agent. Although reference is made herein to the use of both coupling agents and functionalizing groups (and compounds used therefor), those skilled in the art appreciate that certain compounds may serve both functions. That is, certain compounds may both couple and provide the polymer chains with a functional group. Those skilled in the art also appreciate that the abilityto couple polymer chains may depend upon the amount of coupling agent reacted with the polymer chains. For example, advantageous coupling may be achieved where the coupling agent is added in a one to one ratio between the equivalents of lithium on the initiator and equivalents of leaving groups (e.g., halogen atoms) on the coupling agent. Non-limiting examples of coupling agents include metal halides, metalloid halides, alkoxysilanes, alkoxystannanes, and combinations thereof.

[0037] Non-limiting examples of nitrogen-containing functional groups that can be utilized in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments as a silica-reactive functional group in the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) include, but are not limited to, a substituted or unsubstituted amino group, an amide residue, an isocyanate group, an imidazolyl group, an indolyl group, an imino group, a nitrile group, a pyridyl group, and a ketimine group. The foregoing substituted or unsubstituted amino group should be understood to include a primary alkylamine, a secondary alkylamine, or a cyclic amine, and an amino group derived from a substituted or unsubstituted imine. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) comprises at one silica-reactive functional group selected from the foregoing list of nitrogen-containing functional groups.

[0038] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) includes a silica-reactive functional group from a compound which includes nitrogen in the form of an imino group. Such an imino-containing functional group may be added by reacting the active terminal of a polymer chain with a compound having the following formula (I) : wherein R, R', R”, and R'” each independently are selected from a group having 1 to 18 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18 carbon atoms) selected from the group consisting of an alkyl group, an allyl group, and an aryl group; m and n are integers of 1 to 20 (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, or 20) and 1 to 3 (1, 2, or 3), respectively. Each of R, R', R”, and R'” are preferably hydrocarbyl and contain no heteroatoms. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, each R and R' are independently selected from an alkyl group having 1 to 6 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 carbon atoms), preferably 1 to 3 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, or 3 carbon atoms). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, m is an integer of 2 to 6 (e.g., 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6), preferably 2 to 3. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, R'" is selected from a group having 1 to 6 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 carbon atoms), preferably 2 to 4 carbon atoms (e.g., 2, 3, or 4 carbon atoms). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, R” is selected from an alkyl group having 1 to 6 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 carbon atoms), preferably 1 to 3 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, or 3 carbon atoms), most preferably 1 carbon atom (e.g., methyl). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, n is 3 resulting in a compound with a trihydrocarboxysilane moiety such as a trialkoxysilane moiety. Non-limiting examples of compounds having an imino group and meeting formula (I) above, which are suitable for providing the silica-reactive functional group for the styrene-butadiene rubber of (i), include, but are not limited to, N-(l,3-dimethylbutylidene)-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine , N-(l- methylethylidene)-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine, N-ethylidene-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l- propaneamine, N-(l-methylpropylidene)-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine, and N-(4-N,N- dimethylaminobenzylidene )-3-( triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine.

[0039] Non-limiting examples of silicon-containing functional groups that can be utilized in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments as a silica-reactive functional group in the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) include, but are not limited to, an organic silyl or siloxy group, and more precisely, the such functional group may be selected from an alkoxysilyl group, an alkylhalosilyl group, a siloxy group, an alkylaminosilyl group, and an alkoxyhalosilyl group. Optionally, the organic silyl or siloxy group may also contain one or more nitrogens. Suitable silicon-containing functional groups for use in functionalizing diene-based elastomer also include those disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 6,369,167, the entire disclosure of which is herein incorporated by reference. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) comprises at least one silica-reactive functional group selected from the foregoing list of silicon-containing functional groups. [0040] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) includes a silica-reactive functional group which includes a silicon-containing functional group having a siloxy group (e.g., a hydrocarbyloxysilane-containing compound), wherein the compound optionally includes a monovalent group having at least one functional group. Such a silicon-containing functional group may be added by reacting the active terminal of a polymer chain with a compound having the following formula (II):

wherein A 1 represents a monovalent group having at least one functional group selected from epoxy, isocyanate, imine, cyano, carboxylic ester, carboxylic anhydride, cyclic tertiary amine, non-cyclic tertiary amine, pyridine, silazane and sulfide; R c represents a single bond or a divalent hydrocarbon group having from 1 to 20 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, S, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, or 20 carbon atoms); R d represents a monovalent aliphatic hydrocarbon group having 1 to 20 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, or 20 carbon atoms), a monovalent aromatic hydrocarbon group having 6 to 18 carbon atoms (e.g., 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18 carbon atoms) or a reactive group; R e represents a monovalent aliphatic hydrocarbon group having 1 to 20 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, or 20 carbon atoms) or a monovalent aromatic hydrocarbon group having 6 to 18 carbon atoms (e.g., 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18 carbon atoms); b is an integer of 0 to 2; when more than one R d or OR e are present, each R d and/or OR e may be the same as or different from each other; and an active proton is not contained in a molecule) and/or a partial condensation product thereof. As used herein, a partial condensation product refers to a product in which a part (not all) of a SiOR group in the hydrocarbyloxysilane compound is turned into a SiOSi bond by condensation. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, at least one of the following is met: (a) R c represents a divalent hydrocarbon group having 1 to 12 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 carbon atoms), 2 to 6 carbon atoms (e.g., 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 carbon atoms), or 2 to 3 carbon atoms (e.g., 2 or 3 carbon atoms); (b) R e represents a monovalent aliphatic hydrocarbon group having 1 to 12 carbon atoms (e.g., 1, 2, B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 carbon atoms), 2 to 6 carbon atoms (e.g., 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 carbon atoms), or 1 to 2 carbon atoms or a monovalent aromatic hydrocarbon group having 6 to 8 carbon atoms; (c) R d represents a monovalent aliphatic hydrocarbon group having 1 to 12 carbon atoms(e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 carbon atoms), 2 to 6 carbon atoms (e.g., 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 carbon atoms), or 1 to 2 carbon atoms or a monovalent aromatic hydrocarbon group having 6 to 8 carbon atoms; in certain such embodiments, each of (a), (b) and (c) are met and R c , R e and R d are selected from one of the foregoing groups.

[0041] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one epoxy group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include 2-glycidoxyethyltrimethoxysilane, 2-glycidoxyethyltriethoxysilane, (2- glycidoxyethyl)methyldimethoxysilane, 3-glycidoxypropyltrimethoxysilane, 3- glycidoxypropyltriethoxysilane, (3-glycidoxypropyl)-methyldimethoxysilane, 2-(3,4- epoxycyclohexyl)ethyltrimethoxysilane, 2-(3,4-epoxycyclohexyl)ethyltriethoxysilane, 2-(3,4- epoxycyclohexyl)ethyl(methyl)dimethoxysilane and the like. Among them, 3- glycidoxypropyltrimethoxysilane and 2-(3,4-epoxycyclohexyl)ethyltrimethoxysilane are particularly suited.

[0042] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one isocyanate group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include 3-isocyanatopropyltrimethoxysilane, 3-isocyanatopropyltriethoxysilane, 3- isocyanatopropylmethyldiethoxysilane, 3-isocyanatopropyltriisopropoxysilane and the like, and among them, 3-isocyanatopropyltrimethoxysilane is particularly preferred.

[0043] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one imine group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include N-(l,3-dimethylbutylidene)-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine , N-(l-methylethylidene)- 3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine, N-ethylidene-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine, N-(l- methylpropylidene)-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine, N-(4-N,N-dimethylaminobenzylidene)-3- (triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine, N-(cyclohexylidene)-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine and trimethoxysilyl compounds, methyldiethoxysilyl compounds, ethyldimethoxysilyl compounds and the like each corresponding to the above triethoxysilyl compounds. Among them, N-(l,3- dimethylbutylidene)-3-(triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine and N-(l-methylpropylidene)-3- (triethoxysilyl)-l-propaneamine are particularly suited. Also, the imine(amidine) group- containing compounds include preferably l-[3-trimethoxysilyl]propyl]-4,5-dihydroimidazole, 3- (l-hexamethyleneimino)propyl(triethoxy)silane, (1- hexamethyleneimino)methyl(trimethoxy)silane, N-(3-triethoxysilylpropyl)-4,5-dihydroimidazole, N-(3-isopropoxysilylpropyl)-4,5-dihydroimidazole, N-(3-methyldiethoxysilylpropyl)-4,5- dihydroimidazole and the like, and among them, N-(3-triethoxysilylpropyl)-4,5-dihydroimidazole and N-(3-isopropoxysilylpropyl)-4,5-dihydroimidazole are preferred.

[0044] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one carboxylic ester group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include 3-methacryloyloxypropyltriethoxysilane, 3- methacryloyloxypropyltrimethoxysilane, 3-methacryloyloxypropylmethyldiethoxysilane, 3- methacryloyloxypropyltriisopropoxysilane and the like, and among them, 3- methacryloyloxypropyltriethoxysilane is preferred.

[0045] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one carboxylic anhydride group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include 3-trimethoxysilylpropylsuccinic anhydride, 3-triethoxysilylpropylsuccinic anhydride, 3-methyldiethoxysilylpropylsuccinic anhydride and the like, and among them, 3- triethoxysilylpropylsuccinic anhydride is preferred.

[0046] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one cyano group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include 2-cyanoethylpropyltriethoxysilane and the like.

[0047] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one cyclic tertiary amine group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include 3-(l-hexamethyleneimino)propyltriethoxysilane, 3-(l- hexamethyleneimino)propyltrimethoxysilane, (l-hexamethyleneimino)methyltriethoxysilane, (l-hexamethyleneimino)methyltrimethoxysilane, 2-(l- hexamethyleneimino)ethyltriethoxysilane, 3-(l-hexamethyleneimino)ethyltrimethoxysilane, 3- (l-pyrrolidinyl)propyltrimethoxysilane, 3-(l-pyrrolidinyl)propyltriethoxysilane, 3-(l- heptamethyleneimino)propyltriethoxysilane, 3-(l- dodecamethyleneimino)propyltriethoxysilane, 3-(l- hexamethyleneimino)propyldiethoxymethylsilane, 3-(l- hexamethyleneimino)propyldiethoxyethylsilane, 3-[10-(triethoxysilyl)decyl]-4-oxazoline and the like. Among them, 3-(l-hexamethyleneimino)propyltriethoxysilane and (1- hexamethyleneimino)methyltriethoxysilane can preferably be listed.

[0048] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one non-cyclic tertiary amine group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include 3-dimethylaminopropyltriethoxysilane, 3- dimethylaminopropyltrimethoxysilane, 3-diethylaminopropyltriethoxysilane, 3- dimethylaminopropyltrimethoxysilane, 2-dimethylaminoethyltriethoxysilane, 2- dimethylaminoethyltrimethoxysilane, 3-dimethylaminopropyldiethoxymethylsilane, 3- dibutylaminopropyltriethoxysilane and the like, and among them, 3- dimethylaminopropyltriethoxysilane and 3-diethylaminopropyltriethoxysilane are suited.

[0049] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one pyridine group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include 2-trimethoxysilylethylpyridine and the like. [0050] In certain preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) results from a compound represented by Formula (II) wherein A 1 has at least one silazane group. Non-limiting specific examples of such compounds include N,N-bis(trimethylsilyl)-aminopropylmethyldimethoxysilane, l-trimethylsilyl-2,2- dimethoxy-l-aza-2-silacyclopentane, N,N-bis(trimethylsilyl)aminopropyltrimethoxysilane, N,N- bis(trimethylsilyl)aminopropyltriethoxysilane, N,N- bis(trimethylsilyl)aminopropylmethyldiethoxysilane, N,N- bis(trimethylsilyl)aminoethyltrimethoxysilane, N,N-bis(trimethylsilyl)aminoethyltriethoxysilane, N,N-bis(trimethylsilyl)aminoethylmethyldimethoxysilane, N,N- bis(trimethylsilyl)aminoethylmethyldiethoxysilane and the like. N,N- bis(trimethylsilyl)aminopropyltriethoxysilane, N,N- bis(trimethylsilyl)aminopropylmethyldiethoxysilane or l-trimethylsilyl-2,2-dimethoxy-l-aza-2- silacyclopentane are particularly preferred.

[0051] In those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein a silica-reactive functional group according to formula (II) is used wherein A 1 contains one or more protected nitrogens (as discussed in detail above), the nitrogen may be deprotected or deblocked by hydrolysis or other procedures to convert the protected nitrogen(s) into a primary nitrogen. As a non-limiting example, a nitrogen bonded to two trimethylsilyl groups could be deprotected and converted to a primary amine nitrogen (such a nitrogen would still be bonded to the remainder of the formula (II) compound). Accordingly, in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein a silica-reactive functional group of the styrene-butadiene rubber results from use of a compound according to formula (II) wherein A 1 contains one or more protected nitrogens, the functionalized polymer can be understood as containing a functional group resulting from a deprotected (or hydrolyzed) version of the compound.

[0052] Non-limiting examples of oxygen- or sulfur-containing functional groups that can be utilized in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments as a silica-reactive functional group in the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) include, but are not limited to, a hydroxyl group, a carboxyl group, an epoxy group, a glycidoxy group, a diglycidylamino group, a cyclic dithiane- derived functional group, an ester group, an aldehyde group, an alkoxy group, a ketone group, a thiocarboxyl group, a thioepoxy group, a thioglycidoxy group, a thiodiglycidylamino group, a thioester group, a thioaldehyde group, a thioalkoxy group, and a thioketone group. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the foregoing alkoxy group may be an alcohol- derived alkoxy group derived from a benzophenone. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) comprises at least silica-reactive functional group selected from the foregoing list of oxygen- or sulfur-containing functional groups.

[0053] According to the first-fourth embodiments, the one or more styrene-butadiene rubbers having a silica-reactive functional group of (ii) may be prepared by either solution polymerization or by emulsion polymerization. In certain preferred embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the only styrene-butadiene rubbers having a silica-reactive functional group used in (ii) are prepared by solution polymerization. In other embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the only styrene-butadiene rubbers having a silica-reactive functional group used in (ii) are prepared by emulsion polymerization. In certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, when more than one styrene-butadiene rubber having a silica-reactive functional group is used for (ii) the rubbers are a combination of solution polymerized SBR and emulsion polymerized SBR (e.g., one solution SBR and one emulsion SBR). As mentioned above, in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the only styrene-butadiene rubber(s) present in the elastomer component (including for the SBR having a silica-reactive functional group) is a solution SBR (i.e., no emulsion SBR is present).

[0054] In one or more embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the coupling agent for the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) comprises a metal halide or metalloid halide selected from the group comprising compounds expressed by the formula (1) R* n MlY ( 4_ n ), the formula (2) M^U and the formula (3) M^Y^, where each R* is independently a monovalent organic group having 1 to 20 carbon atoms, is a tin atom, silicon atom, or germanium atom, is a phosphorous atom, Y is a halogen atom, and n is an integer of 0-3.

[0055] Exemplary compounds expressed by the formula (1) include halogenated organic metal compounds, and the compounds expressed by the formulas (2) and (3) include halogenated metal compounds. [0056] In the case where M 1 represents a tin atom, the compounds expressed by the formula (1) can be, for example, triphenyltin chloride, tributyltin chloride, triisopropyltin chloride, trihexyltin chloride, trioctyltin chloride, diphenyltin dichloride, dibutyltin dichloride, dihexyltin dichloride, dioctyltin dichloride, phenyltin trichloride, butyltin trichloride, octyltin trichloride and the like. Furthermore, tin tetrachloride, tin tetrabromide and the like can be exemplified as the compounds expressed by formula (2).

[0057] In the case where M 1 represents a silicon atom, the compounds expressed by the formula (1) can be, for example, triphenylchlorosilane, trihexylchlorosilane, trioctylchlorosilane, tributylchlorosilane, trimethylchlorosilane, diphenyldichlorosilane, dihexyldichlorosilane, dioctyldichlorosilane, dibutyldichlorosilane, dimethyldichlorosilane, methyltrichlorosilane, phenyltrichlorosilane, hexyltrichlorosilane, octyltrichlorosilane, butyltrichlorosilane, methyltrichlorosilane and the like. Furthermore, silicon tetrachloride, silicon tetrabromide and the like can be exemplified as the compounds expressed by the formula (2). In the case where M 1 represents a germanium atom, the compounds expressed by the formula (1) can be, for example, triphenylgermanium chloride, dibutylgermanium dichloride, diphenylgermanium dichloride, butylgermanium trichloride and the like. Furthermore, germanium tetrachloride, germanium tetrabromide and the like can be exemplified as the compounds expressed by the formula (2). Phosphorous trichloride, phosphorous tribromide and the like can be exemplified as the compounds expressed by the formula (3). In one or more embodiments, mixtures of metal halides and/or metalloid halides can be used.

[0058] In one or more embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the coupling agent for the styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) comprises an alkoxysilane or alkoxystannane selected from the group comprising compounds expressed by the formula (4) R* n Ml(OR A )4_ n , where each R* is independently a monovalent organic group having 1 to 20 carbon atoms, is a tin atom, silicon atom, or germanium atom, OR A is an alkoxy group where R A is a monovalent organic group, and n is an integer of 0-3.

[0059] Exemplary compounds expressed by the formula (4) include tetraethyl orthosilicate, tetramethyl orthosilicate, tetrapropyl orthosilicate, tetraethoxy tin, tetramethoxy tin, and tetrapropoxy tin. [0060] According to the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the Mw, Mn and polydispersity (Mw/Mn) of the least one styrene-butadiene rubber present in the elastomer component as (ii), the styrene-butadiene rubber(s) may vary. In certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber(s) of (ii) have a Mw of 300,000 to 600,000 grams/mole (e.g., 300,000; 325,000; 350,000; 375,000; 400,000; 425,000; 450,000; 475,000; 500,000; 525,000; 550,000; 575,000; or 600,000 grams/mole). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber(s) of (ii) have a Mw of 350,000 to 550,000 grams/mole (e.g., 350,000; 360,000; 370,000; 380,000; 390,000; 400,000; 500,000; 510,000; 520,000; 530,000; 540,000; or 550,000 grams/mole). The Mw values referred to herein are weight average molecular weights which can be determined by using gel permeation chromatography (GPC) calibrated with styrene-butadiene standards and Mark-Houwink constants for the polymer in question. In certain embodiments of the first -fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber(s) of (ii) have a Mn of 200,000 to 400,000 grams/mole (e.g., 200,000; 225,000; 250,000; 275,000; 300,000; 325,000; 350,000; 375,000; or 400,000 grams/mole). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the styrene-butadiene rubber(s) of (ii) have a Mn of 200,000 to 300,000 grams/mole (e.g., 200,000; 210,000; 220,000; 230,000; 240,000; 250,000; 260,000; 270,000; 280,000; 290,000; or 300,000 grams/mole). The Mn values referred to herein are number average molecular weights which can be determined by using gel permeation chromatography (GPC) calibrated with styrene-butadiene standards and Mark-Houwink constants for the polymer in question. In certain embodiments of the first -fourth embodiments disclosed herein, In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the styrene-butadiene rubber(s) of (ii) have a Mw/Mn (polydispersity) of 1.2 to 2.5 to (e.g., 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, or 2.5), preferably 1.3 to 2 (e.g., 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, or 2).

[0061] According to the first and second embodiments and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment, the at least styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) has a Tg of about -50 to about -75 °C which includes a range of -50 to -75 °C (e.g., -50, -52, -54, -55, -56, -58, -60, -62, -64, -65, -66, -68, -70, -72, -74, or -75 °C). According to the third embodiment, and in certain embodiments of the first, second and fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) has a Tg of about -50 to about -65 °C, which includes a range of -50 to -65 °C (e.g., - 50, -52, -54, -55, -56, -58, -60, -62, -64, -65 °C). In certain embodiments of the first, second and fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) has a Tg of -50 to -70 °C (e.g., -50, -52, -54, -55, -56, -58, -60, -62, -64, -65, -66, -68, or -70 °C), -50 to -65 °C (e.g., -50, -52, -54, -55, -56, -58, -60, -62, -64, or -65 °C), -55 to -70 °C (e.g., -55, -57, -59, -60, -61, -63, -65, -67, - 69, or 70 °C), or -55 to -65 °C (e.g., -55, -56, -57, -58, -59, -60, -61, -62, -63, -64, or -65 °C). In certain embodiments of the third embodiment, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) has a Tg of -55 to -65 °C (e.g., -55, -56, -57, -58, -59, -60, -61, -62, -63, -64, or -65 °C). According to the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) may have a Tg within one of the foregoing ranges, optionally in combination with one or more of the Mw, Mn, and/or Mw/Mn ranges discussed above, and in certain embodiments optionally in combination with one of the styrene monomer contents discussed below.

[0062] According to the first-fourth embodiments, the styrene monomer content (i.e., weight percent of the polymer chain comprising styrene units as opposed to butadiene units) of the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) may vary. In certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) has a styrene monomer content of about 10 to about 40 weight %, 10-40 weight % (e.g., 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, or 40%), 10-30 weight % (e.g., 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, or 30%), or 10-20 weight % (e.g., 10%, 12%, 14%, 16%, 18%, or 20%). The at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) may have a styrene monomer content within one of the foregoing ranges, optionally in combination with one or more of the Mw, Mn, and/or Mw/Mn ranges discussed below, and in certain embodiments optionally in combination with one of the Tg ranges discussed above and/or vinyl bond contents discussed below.

[0063] According to the first-fourth embodiments, the vinyl bond content (i.e., 1,2- microstructure) of the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) may vary. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one styrene-butadiene rubber of (ii) has a vinyl bond content of about 10 to about 50%, 10-50% (e.g., 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, 40%, 45%, or 50%), about 10 to about 40%, 10-40% (e.g., 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, or 40%), about 20 to about 40%, or 20-40% (e.g., 20%, 21%, 22%, 23%, 24%, 25%, 26%, 27%, 28%, 29%, 30%, 31%, 32%, 33%, 34%, 35%, 36%, 37%, 38%, 39%, or 40%). The at least one styrene- butadiene rubber of (ii) may have a vinyl bond content within one of the foregoing ranges, optionally in combination with one or more of the Mw, Mn, Mw/Mn, Tg, and/or styrene monomer content ranges discussed above. The vinyl bond contents referred to herein should be understood as being for the overall vinyl bond content in the SBR polymer chain rather than of the vinyl bond content in the butadiene portion of the SBR polymer chain, and can be determined by H 1 -NMR and C 13 -NMR ( e.g ., using a 300 MHz Gemini 300 NMR Spectrometer System (Varian)).

[0064] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the average Tg of the elastomer component is about -65 to about -80 °C, -65 to -80 °C (e.g., -65, -66, -67, -68, -69, -70, -71, -72, -73, -74, -75, -76, -77, -78, -79, or -80 °C), -70 to -80 °C (e.g., -70, -71, -72, -73, -74, -75, - 76, -77, -78, -79, or -80 °C), or -70 to -75 °C (e.g., -70, -71, -72, -73, -74, or -75 °C). The average Tg of the elastomer component can be calculated using the Tg of each rubber present in the 100 parts of elastomer component and accounting for their relative weight percentage. When one (or more) of the rubbers is oil-extended, only the amount of rubber (i.e., excluding any amount of oil) is utilized in calculating the average Tg of the elastomer component. When one (or more) of the rubbers is oil-extended, the Tg of the non-oil-extended elastomer is utilized in calculating the average Tg of the elastomer component.

Fillers

[0065] As used herein, the term "reinforcing" with respect to "reinforcing carbon black filler," "reinforcing silica filler," and "reinforcing filler" generally should be understood to encompass both fillers that are traditionally described as reinforcing as well as fillers that may traditionally be described as semi-reinforcing. Traditionally, the term "reinforcing filler" is used to refer to a particulate material that has a nitrogen absorption specific surface area (N 2 SA) of more than about 100 m 2 /g, and in certain instances more than 100 m 2 /g, more than about 125 m 2 /g, more than 125 m 2 /g, or even more than about 150 m 2 /g or more than 150 m 2 /g. Alternatively (or additionally), the traditional use of the term "reinforcing filler" can also be used to refer to a particulate material that has a particle size of about 10 nm to about 50 nm (including 10 nm to 50 nm). Traditionally, the term "semi-reinforcing filler" is used to refer to a filler that is intermediary in either particle size, surface area (N 2 SA), or both, to a non-reinforcing filler (as discussed below) and a reinforcing filler. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the term "reinforcing filler" is used to refer to a particulate material that has a nitrogen absorption specific surface area (N 2 SA) of about 20 m 2 /g or greater, including 20 m 2 /g or greater, more than about 50 m 2 /g, more than 50 m 2 /g, more than about 100 m 2 /g, or more than 100 m 2 /g. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the term "reinforcing filler" is used to refer to a particulate material that has a particle size of about 10 nm up to about 1000 nm, including 10 nm to 1000 nm, about 10 nm up to about 50 nm and 10 nm to 50 nm.

Reinforcing Silica Filler

[0066] As mentioned above, according to the first embodiment (and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment), the tread rubber composition comprises (includes) at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m 2 /g in an amount of 80-140 phr (e.g., 80, 81, 84, 85, 89, 90, 91, 94, 95, 99, 100, 101, 104, 105, 109, 110, 111, 114, 115, 119, 120, 121, 124, 125, 129, 130, 131, 134, 135, 139, or 140 phr). As also mentioned above, according to the second embodiment (and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment), the tread rubber composition comprises (includes) at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m 2 /g in an amount of 90-130 phr (e.g., 91, 95, 99, 100, 101, 105, 109, 110, 111, 115, 119, 120, 121, 125, 129, or 130 phr). According to the third embodiment (and in certain embodiments of the first, second and fourth embodiments), the tread rubber composition comprises (includes) at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 140 m 2 /g in an amount of 100-130 phr (e.g., 100, 101, 105, 109, 110, 111, 115, 119, 120, 121, 125, 129, or 130 phr). In certain embodiments of the first, second, and fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition comprises (includes) at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 140 m 2 /g in an amount of 90-130 phr (e.g., 91, 95, 99, 100, 101, 105, 109, 110, 111, 115, 119, 120, 121, 125, 129, or 130 phr). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition comprises (includes) at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area as discussed infra in an amount of 95-125 phr (e.g., 95, 99, 100, 101, 104, 105, 109, 110, 111, 114, 115, 119, 120, 121, 124, or 125 phr), 100-120 phr (e.g., 100, 101, 104, 105, 109, 110, 111, 115, 119, or 120 phr), or 100-110 phr (e.g., 100, 101, 104, 105, 109, 110 phr). According to the first- fourth embodiments, one or more than one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area as discussed infra may be utilized; in those embodiments where more than one such reinforcing silica filler is utilized, the foregoing amounts refer to the total amount of all reinforcing silica fillers. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, only one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area within one of the foregoing ranges is utilized. In preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the only reinforcing silica filler(s) used in the tread rubber composition have a surface area within one of the foregoing ranges; in such embodiments, the tread rubber composition can be understood as being free of (i.e., contains 0 phr of) reinforcing silica filler having a surface area below or above one of the foregoing ranges.

[0067] According to the first and second embodiments (and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment), the particular type of silica used for the at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 400 m 2 /g may vary. Similarly, according to the third embodiment (and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment), the particular type of silica used for the at least one reinforcing silica filler having a surface area of about 100 to about 140 m 2 /g may vary. Non-limiting examples of reinforcing silica fillers suitable for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments include, but are not limited to, precipitated amorphous silica, wet silica (hydrated silicic acid), dry silica (anhydrous silicic acid), fumed silica, calcium silicate and the like. Other suitable reinforcing silica fillers for use in certain embodiments of the first -fourth embodiments include, but are not limited to, aluminum silicate, magnesium silicate (Mg 2 Si0 4 , MgSi0 3 etc.), magnesium calcium silicate (CaMgSi0 4 ), calcium silicate (Ca 2 Si0 4 etc.), aluminum silicate (AI 2 SiOs, AI 4 .3Si0 4 .5H 2 0 etc.), aluminum calcium silicate (AI 2 0 3 .Ca0 2 Si0 2 , etc.), and the like. Among the listed reinforcing silica fillers, precipitated amorphous wet-process, hydrated silica fillers are preferred. Such reinforcing silica fillers are produced by a chemical reaction in water, from which they are precipitated as ultrafine, spherical particles, with primary particles strongly associated into aggregates, which in turn combine less strongly into agglomerates. The surface area, as measured by the BET method, is a preferred measurement for characterizing the reinforcing character of different reinforcing silica fillers. As discussed above, according to the first and second embodiments (and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment) disclosed herein, the rubber composition comprises a reinforcing silica filler having a surface area (as measured by the BET method) of about 100 m 2 /g to about 400 m 2 /g. In certain embodiments of the first, second, and fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the rubber composition comprises a reinforcing silica filler having a surface area (as measured by the BET method) of 100 m 2 /g to 400 m 2 /g (e.g., 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 180, 190, 200, 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260, 270, 280, 290, 300, 310, 320, 330, 340, 350, 360, 370, 380, 390, or 400 m 2 /g), about 100 m 2 /g to about 350 m 2 /g, or 100 m 2 /g to 350 m 2 /g (e.g., 150, 160, 170, 180, 190, 200, 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260, 270, 280, 290, 300, 310, 320, 330, 340, or 350 m 2 /g); in certain such embodiments the only silica filler present in the rubber composition has a BET surface area within one of the foregoing ranges. In certain embodiments of the first, second, and fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the rubber composition comprises a reinforcing silica filler having a BET surface area of about 150 m 2 /g to about 400 m 2 /g, with the ranges of 150 m 2 /g to 400 m 2 /g (e.g., 150, 160, 170, 180, 190, 200, 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260, 270, 280, 290, 300, 310, 320, 330, 340, 350, 360, 370, 380, 390, or 400 m 2 /g), about 170 m 2 /g to about 350 m 2 /g, 170 m 2 /g to 350 m 2 /g (e.g., 170, 180, 190, 200, 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260, 270, 280, 290, 300, 310, 320, 330, 340, or 350 m 2 /g), about 170 m 2 /g to about 320 m 2 /g, and 170 m 2 /g to 320 m 2 /g (e.g., 170, 180, 190, 200, 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260, 270, 280, 290, 300, 310, or 320 m 2 /g) being included; in certain such embodiments the only silica filler present in the rubber composition has a BET surface area within one of the foregoing ranges. In other embodiments of the first, second and fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the rubber composition comprises a reinforcing silica filler having a BET surface of about 100 m 2 /g to about 140 m 2 /g, 100 m 2 /g to 140 m 2 /g (e.g., 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, 125, 130, 135, or 140 m 2 /g), about 100 m 2 /g to about 125 m 2 /g, 100 m 2 /g to 125 m 2 /g (e.g., 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, or 125 m 2 /g), about 100 m 2 /g to about 120 m 2 /g, or 100 to 120 m 2 /g (e.g., 100, 105, 110, 115, or 120 m 2 /g); in certain such embodiments the only silica filler present in the rubber composition has a BET surface area within one of the foregoing ranges. As discussed above, according to the third embodiment (and in certain embodiments of the fourth embodiment) disclosed herein, the rubber composition comprises a reinforcing silica filler having a surface area (as measured by the BET method) of about 100 m 2 /g to about 140 m 2 /g. In certain embodiments of the third and fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the rubber composition comprises a reinforcing silica filler having a surface area (as measured by the BET method) of 100 m 2 /g to 140 m 2 /g (e.g., 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, 125, 130, 135, or 140 m 2 /g), about 100 m 2 /g to about 125 m 2 /g, 100 m 2 /g to 125 m 2 /g (e.g., 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, or 125 m 2 /g), about 100 m 2 /g to about 120 m 2 /g, or 100 to 120 m 2 /g (e.g., 100, 105, 110, 115, or 120 m 2 /g); in certain such embodiments the only silica filler present in the rubber composition has a BET surface area within one of the foregoing ranges. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the rubber composition comprises reinforcing silica filler having a pH of about 5.5 to about 8, 5.5 to 8 (e.g., 5.5, 5.7, 5.9, 6.1, 6.3, 6.5, 6.7, 6.9, 7.1, 7.3, 7.5, 7.7, 7.9, or 8), about 6 to about 8, 6 to 8 (e.g., 6, 6.2, 6.4, 6.6, 6.8, 7, 7.2, 7.4, 7.6, 7.8, or 8), about 6 to about 7.5, 6 to 7.5, about 6.5 to about 8, 6.5 to 8, about 6.5 to about 7.5, 6.5 to 7.5, about 5.5 to about 6.8, or 5.5 to 6.8. Some of the commercially available reinforcing silica fillers which can be used in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments include, but are not limited to, Hi-Sil ® EZ120G, Hi-Sil ® EZ120G-D, Hi-Sil ® 134G, Hi-Sil ® EZ 160G, Hi-Sil ® EZ 160G-D, Hi-Sil ® 190, Hi- Sil ® 190G-D, Hi-Sil ® EZ 200G, Hi-Sil ® EZ 200G-D, Hi-Sil ® 210, Hi-Sil ® 233, Hi-Sil ® 243LD, Hi-Sil ® 255CG-D, Hi-Sil ® 315-D, Hi-Sil ® 315G-D, Hi-Sil ® HDP 320G and the like, produced by PPG Industries (Pittsburgh, Pa.) As well, a number of useful commercial grades of different reinforcing silica fillers are also available from Evonik Corporation (e.g., Ultrasil ® 320 GR, Ultrasil ® 5000 GR, Ultrasil ® 5500 GR, Ultrasil ® 7000 GR, Ultrasil ® VN2 GR, Ultrasil ® VN2, Ultrasil ® VN3, Ultrasil ® VN3 GR, Ultrasil ® 7000 GR, Ultrasil ® 7005, Ultrasil ® 7500 GR, Ultrasil ® 7800 GR, Ultrasil ® 9500 GR, Ultrasil ® 9000 G, Ultrasil ® 9100 GR), and Solvay (e.g., Zeosil ® 1115MP, Zeosil ® 1085GR, Zeosil ® 1165MP, Zeosil ® 1200MP, Zeosil ® Premium, Zeosil ® 195HR, Zeosil ® 195GR, Zeosil ® 185GR, Zeosil ® 175GR, and Zeosil ® 165 GR).

[0068] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein, one or more than one silica coupling agent may also (optionally) be utilized. Silica coupling agents are useful in preventing or reducing aggregation of the silica filler in rubber compositions. Aggregates of the silica filler particles are believed to increase the viscosity of a rubber composition, and, therefore, preventing this aggregation reduces the viscosity and improves the processability and blending of the rubber composition. [0069] Generally, any conventional type of silica coupling agent can be used, such as those having a silane and a constituent component or moiety that can react with a polymer, particularly a vulcanizable polymer. The silica coupling agent acts as a connecting bridge between silica and the polymer. Suitable silica coupling agents for use in certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments disclosed herein include those containing groups such as alkyl alkoxy, mercapto, blocked mercapto, sulfide-containing (e.g., monosulfide-based alkoxy-containing, disulfide-based alkoxy-containing, tetrasulfide-based alkoxy-containing), amino, vinyl, epoxy, and combinations thereof. In certain embodiments, the silica coupling agent can be added to the rubber composition in the form of a pre-treated silica; a pre-treated silica has been pre surface treated with a silane prior to being added to the rubber composition. The use of a pre treated silica can allow for two ingredients (i.e., silica and a silica coupling agent) to be added in one ingredient, which generally tends to make rubber compounding easier.

[0070] Alkyl alkoxysilanes have the general formula R 10 pSi(OR 11 ) 4 -p where each R 11 is independently a monovalent organic group, and p is an integer from 1 to 3, with the proviso that at least one R 10 is an alkyl group. Preferably p is 1. Generally, each R 10 independently comprises Ci to C 2 o aliphatic, C5 to C20 cycloaliphatic, or C 6 to C20 aromatic; and each R 11 independently comprises Ci to C 6 aliphatic. In certain exemplary embodiments, each R 10 independently comprises C 6 to C15 aliphatic and in additional embodiments each R 10 independently comprises Os to C14 aliphatic. Mercapto silanes have the general formula HS-R 13 -Si(R 14 )(R 15 )2 where R 13 is a divalent organic group, R 14 is a halogen atom or an alkoxy group, each R 15 is independently a halogen, an alkoxy group or a monovalent organic group. The halogen is chlorine, bromine, fluorine, or iodine. The alkoxy group preferably has 1-3 carbon atoms. Blocked mercapto silanes have the general formula B-S-R 16 -Si-X 3 with an available silyl group for reaction with silica in a silica-silane reaction and a blocking group B that replaces the mercapto hydrogen atom to block the reaction of the sulfur atom with the polymer. In the foregoing general formula, B is a block group which can be in the form of an unsaturated heteroatom or carbon bound directly to sulfur via a single bond; R 16 is Ci to C 6 linear or branched alkylidene and each X is independently selected from the group consisting of Ci to C 4 alkyl or Ci to C 4 alkoxy. [0071] Non-limiting examples of alkyl alkoxysilanes suitable for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments include, but are not limited to, octyltriethoxysilane, octyltrimethoxysilane, trimethylethoxysilane, cyclohexyltriethoxysilane, isobutyltriethoxy-silane, ethyltrimethoxysilane, cyclohexyl-tributoxysilane, dimethyldiethoxysilane, methyltriethoxysilane, propyltriethoxysilane, hexyltriethoxysilane, heptyltriethoxysilane, nonyltriethoxysilane, decyltriethoxysilane, dodecyltriethoxysilane, tetradecyltriethoxysilane, octadecyltriethoxysilane, methyloctyldiethoxysilane, dimethyldimethoxysilane, methyltrimethoxysilane, propyltrimethoxysilane, hexyltrimethoxysilane, heptyltrimethoxysilane, nonyltrimethoxysilane, decyltrimethoxysilane, dodecyltrimethoxysilane, tetradecyltrimethoxysilane, octadecyl-trimethoxysilane, methyloctyl dimethoxysilane, and mixtures thereof.

[0072] Non-limiting examples of bis(trialkoxysilylorgano)polysulfides suitable for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments include bis(trialkoxysilylorgano) disulfides and bis(trialkoxysilylorgano)tetrasulfides. Specific non-limiting examples of bis(trialkoxysilylorgano)disulfides include, but are not limited to, 3,3'-bis(triethoxysilylpropyl) disulfide, 3,3'-bis(trimethoxysilylpropyl)disulfide, 3,3'-bis(tributoxysilylpropyl)disulfide, 3,3'- bis(tri-t-butoxysilylpropyl)disulfide, 3,3'-bis(trihexoxysilylpropyl)disulfide, 2,2'- bis(dimethylmethoxysilylethyl)disulfide, 3,3'- bis(diphenylcyclohexoxysilylpropyl)disulfide, 3,3'- bis(ethyl-di-sec-butoxysilylpropyl)disulfide, 3,3'-bis(propyldiethoxysilylpropyl)disulfide, 12,12'- bis(triisopropoxysilylpropyl)disulfide, 3,3'-bis(dimethoxyphenylsilyl-2-methylpropyl)disulfide, and mixtures thereof. Non-limiting examples of bis(trialkoxysilylorgano)tetrasulfide silica coupling agents suitable for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments include, but are not limited to, bis(3-triethoxysilylpropyl)tetrasulfide, bis(2-triethoxysilylethyl) tetrasufide, bis(3-trimethoxysilylpropyl)tetrasulfide, 3- trimethoxysilylpropyl-N,N- dimethylthiocarbamoyl tetrasulfide, 3-triethoxysilylpropyl-N,N-dimethylthiocarbamoyl tetrasulfide, 2-triethoxysilyl-N,N-dimethylthiocarbamoyl tetrasulfide, 3-trimethoxysilylpropyl- benzothiazole tetrasulfide, 3-triethoxysilylpropylbenzothiazole tetrasulfide, and mixtures thereof. Bis(3-triethoxysilylpropyl)tetrasulfide is sold commercially as Si69 ® by Evonik Degussa Corporation. [0073] Non-limiting examples of mercapto silanes suitable for use in certain embodiments of first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein include, but are not limited to, 1- mercaptomethyltriethoxysilane, 2- mercaptoethyltriethoxysilane, 3- mercaptopropyltriethoxysilane, 3- mercaptopropylmethyldiethoxysilane, 2- mercaptoethyltripropoxysilane, 18- mercaptooctadecyldiethoxychlorosilane, and mixtures thereof.

[0074] Non-limiting examples of blocked mercapto silanes suitable for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein include, but are not limited to, those described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,127,468; 6,204,339; 6,528,673; 6,635,700; 6,649,684; and 6,683,135, the disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference. Representative examples of the blocked mercapto silanes include, but are not limited to, 2- triethoxysilyl-1- ethylthioacetate; 2-trimethoxysilyl-l-ethylthioacetate; 2-(methyldimethoxysilyl)- 1- ethylthioacetate; 3-trimethoxysilyl-l-propylthioacetate; triethoxysilylmethyl-thioacetate; trimethoxysilylmethylthioacetate; triisopropoxysilylmethylthioacetate; methyldiethoxysilylmethylthioacetate; methyldimethoxysilylmethylthioacetate; methyldiisopropoxysilylmethylthioacetate; dimethylethoxysilylmethylthioacetate; dimethylmethoxysilylmethylthioacetate; dimethylisopropoxysilylmethylthioacetate; 2- triisopropoxysilyl-l-ethylthioacetate; 2-(methyldiethoxysilyl)-l-ethylthioacetate, 2-

(methyldiisopropoxysilyl)-l- ethylthioacetate; 2-(dimethylethoxysilyl-l-ethylthioacetate; 2- (dimethylmethoxysilyl)-l- ethylthioacetate; 2-(dimethylisopropoxysilyl)-l-ethylthioacetate; 3- triethoxysilyl-l-propylthioacetate; 3-triisopropoxysilyl-l-propylthioacetate; 3- methyldiethoxysilyl-l-propyl-thioacetate; 3-methyldimethoxysilyl-l-propylthioacetate; 3- methyldiisopropoxysilyl-l-propylthioacetate; 1- (2-triethoxysilyl-l-ethyl)-4- thioacetylcyclohexane; l-(2-triethoxysilyl-l-ethyl)-3- thioacetylcyclohexane; 2-triethoxysilyl-5- thioacetylnorbornene; 2-triethoxysilyl-4-thioacetylnorbornene; 2-(2-triethoxysilyl-l-ethyl)-5- thioacetylnorbornene; 2-(2-triethoxy-silyl-l- ethyl)-4-thioacetylnorbornene; l-(l-oxo-2-thia-5- triethoxysilylphenyl)benzoic acid; 6- triethoxysilyl-l-hexylthioacetate; l-triethoxysilyl-5- hexylthioacetate; 8-triethoxysilyl-l- octylthioacetate; l-triethoxysilyl-7-octylthioacetate; 6- triethoxysilyl-l-hexylthioacetate; 1- triethoxysilyl-5-octylthioacetate; 8-trimethoxysilyl-l- octylthioacetate; l-trimethoxysilyl-7- octylthioacetate; 10-triethoxysilyl-l-decylthioacetate; 1- triethoxysilyl-9-decylthioacetate; 1- triethoxysilyl-2-butylthioacetate; l-triethoxysilyl-3- butylthioacetate; l-triethoxysilyl-3-methyl-2- butylthioacetate; l-triethoxysilyl-3-methyl-3- butylthioacetate; 3-trimethoxysilyl-l- propylthiooctanoate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l-propyl-l- propylthiopalmitate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l- propylthiooctanoate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l- propylthiobenzoate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l-propylthio-2- ethylhexanoate; 3-methyldiacetoxysilyl-l- propylthioacetate; 3-triacetoxysilyl-l- propylthioacetate; 2-methyldiacetoxysilyl-l- ethylthioacetate; 2-triacetoxysilyl-l- ethylthioacetate; 1-methyldiacetoxysilyl-l- ethylthioacetate; 1-triacetoxysilyl-l-ethyl-thioacetate; tris-(3-triethoxysilyl-l- propyl)trithiophosphate; bis-(3-triethoxysilyl-l- propyl)methyldithiophosphonate; bis-(3- triethoxysilyl-l-propyl)ethyldithiophosphonate; 3- triethoxysilyl-1- propyldimethylthiophosphinate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l-propyldiethylthiophosphinate; tris-(3- triethoxysilyl-l-propyl)tetrathiophosphate; bis-(3-triethoxysilyl-l propyl)methyltrithiophosphonate; bis-(3-triethoxysilyl-l-propyl)ethyltrithiophosphonate; 3- triethoxysilyl-l-propyldimethyldithiophosphinate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l- propyldiethyldithiophosphinate; tris-(3-methyldimethoxysilyl-l-propyl)trithiophosphate; bis-(3- methyldimethoxysilyl- l-propyl)methyldithiophosphonate; bis-(3-methyldimethoxysilyl-l- propyl)-ethyldithiophosphonate; 3-methyldimethoxysilyl-l-propyldimethylthiophosphinate; 3- methyldimethoxysilyl-l-propyldiethylthiophosphinate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l- propylmethylthiosulfate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l-propylmethanethiosulfonate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l- propylethanethiosulfonate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l-propylbenzenethiosulfonate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l- propyltoluenethiosulfonate; 3-triethoxysilyl-l-propylnaphthalenethiosulfonate; 3-triethoxysilyl- 1-propylxylenethiosulfonate; triethoxysilylmethylmethylthiosulfate; triethoxysilylmethylmethanethiosulfonate; triethoxysilylmethylethanethiosulfonate; triethoxysilylmethylbenzenethiosulfonate; triethoxysilylmethyltoluenethiosulfonate; triethoxysilylmethylnaphthalenethiosulfonate; triethoxysilylmethylxylenethiosulfonate, and the like. Mixtures of various blocked mercapto silanes can be used. A further example of a suitable blocked mercapto silane for use in certain exemplary embodiments is NXT™ silane (3- octanoylthio-l-propyltriethoxysilane), commercially available from Momentive Performance Materials Inc. of Albany, NY.

[0075] Non-limiting examples of pre-treated silicas (i.e., silicas that have been pre-surface treated with a silane) suitable for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein include, but are not limited to, Ciptane ® 255 LD and Ciptane ® LP (PPG Industries) silicas that have been pre-treated with a mercaptosilane, and Coupsil ® 8113 (Degussa) that is the product of the reaction between organosilane bis(triethoxysilylpropyl) polysulfide (Si69) and Ultrasil ® VN3 silica. Coupsil 6508, Agilon 400™ silica from PPG Industries, Agilon 454 ® silica from PPG Industries, and 458 ® silica from PPG Industries. In those embodiments where the silica comprises a pre-treated silica, the pre-treated silica is used in an amount as previously disclosed for the silica filler (i.e., about 5 to about 200 phr, etc.).

[0076] When a silica coupling agent is utilized in an embodiment of the first-fourth embodiments, the amount used may vary. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the rubber compositions do not contain any silica coupling agent. In other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the silica coupling agent is present in an amount sufficient to provide a ratio of the total amount of silica coupling agent to silica filler of about 0.1:100 to about 1:5 (i.e., about 0.1 to about 20 parts by weight per 100 parts of silica), including 0.1:100 to 1:5, about 1:100 to about 1:10, 1:100 to 1:10, about 1:100 to about 1:20, 1:100 to 1:20, about 1:100 to about 1:25, and 1:100 to 1:25 as well as about 1:100 to about 0:100 and 1:100 to 0:100. In certain embodiments according to the first-fourth embodiments, the rubber composition comprises about 0.1 to about 15 phr silica coupling agent, including 0.1 to 15 phr (e.g., 0.1, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15 phr), about 0.1 to about 12 phr, 0.1 to 12 phr, about 0.1 to about 10 phr, 0.1 to 10 phr, about 0.1 to about 7 phr, 0.1 to 7 phr, about 0.1 to about 5 phr, 0.1 to 5 phr, about 0.1 to about 3 phr, 0.1 to 3 phr, about 1 to about 15 phr, 1 to 15 phr (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15 phr), about 1 to about 12 phr, 1 to 12 phr (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 phr), about 1 to about 10 phr, 1 to 10 phr (e.g., 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, or 10 phr), about 1 to about 7 phr, 1 to 7 phr, about 1 to about 5 phr, 1 to 5 phr, about 1 to about 3 phr, 1 to 3 phr, about 3 to about 15 phr, 3 to 15 phr, about 3 to about 12 phr, 3 to 12 phr, about 3 to about 10 phr, 3 to 10 phr, about 3 to about 7 phr, 3 to 7 phr, about 3 to about 5 phr, 3 to 5 phr, about 5 to about 15 phr, 5 to 15 phr, about 5 to about 12 phr, 5 to 12 phr, about 5 to about 10 phr, 5 to 10 phr, about 5 to about 7 phr, or 5 to 7 phr.

Carbon Black Filler

[0077] According to the third embodiment disclosed herein and in certain embodiments of the first, second and fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the amount of carbon black filler in the tread rubber composition is limited. More specifically, according to the third embodiment and in certain embodiments of the first, second, and fourth embodiments the tread rubber composition contains no more than 20 phr of carbon black filler (e.g., 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or even 0 phr), no more than 10 phr (e.g., 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, or even 0 phr) of carbon black filler, or no more than 5 phr (e.g., 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or even 0 phr) of carbon black filler. In certain embodiments of the first -fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains 0 phr of carbon black filler. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the foregoing limited amounts of carbon black filler should be understood to refer to reinforcing carbon black filler. In other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the foregoing limited amounts of carbon black filler should be understood to refer to non-reinforcing carbon black filler. In yet other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the foregoing limited amounts of carbon black filler should be understood to refer to all carbon black fillers (i.e., both reinforcing and non-reinforcing carbon black filler).

[0078] In those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments where carbon black filler is present, the particular type or types of carbon black utilized may vary. Generally, suitable carbon blacks for use as a reinforcing filler in the rubber composition of certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments include any of the commonly available, commercially-produced carbon blacks, including those having a surface area of at least about 20 m 2 /g (including at least 20 m 2 /g) and, more preferably, at least about 35 m 2 /g up to about 200 m 2 /g or higher (including 35 m 2 /g up to 200 m 2 /g). Surface area values used herein for carbon blacks are determined by ASTM D-1765 using the cetyltrimethyl-ammonium bromide (CTAB) technique. Among the useful carbon blacks are furnace black, channel blacks, and lamp blacks. More specifically, examples of useful carbon blacks include super abrasion furnace (SAF) blacks, high abrasion furnace (HAF) blacks, fast extrusion furnace (FEF) blacks, fine furnace (FF) blacks, intermediate super abrasion furnace (ISAF) blacks, semi-reinforcing furnace (SRF) blacks, medium processing channel blacks, hard processing channel blacks and conducting channel blacks. Other carbon blacks which can be utilized include acetylene blacks. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the rubber composition includes a mixture of two or more of the foregoing blacks. Preferably according to the first-fourth embodiments, if a carbon black filler is present it consists of only one type (or grade) of reinforcing carbon black. Typical suitable carbon blacks for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments are N-110, N-220, N-339, N-330, N-351, N-550, and N-660, as designated by ASTM D-1765-82a. The carbon blacks utilized can be in pelletized form or an unpelletized flocculent mass. Preferably, for more uniform mixing, unpelletized carbon black is preferred.

Other Reinforcing Fillers

[0079] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition comprises a reinforcing filler other than carbon black or silica (i.e., an additional reinforcing filler). While one or more than one additional reinforcing filler may be utilized, their total amount is preferably limited to no more than 10 phr (e.g., 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or 0 phr), or no more than 5 phr (e.g., 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, or 0 phr). In certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains no additional reinforcing filler (i.e., 0 phr); in other words, in such embodiments no reinforcing filler other than silica and optionally carbon black are present.

[0080] In those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein an additional reinforcing filler is utilized, the additional reinforcing filler or fillers may vary. Non-limiting examples of suitable additional reinforcing fillers for use in the tread rubber compositions of certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments include, but are not limited to, alumina, aluminum hydroxide, clay (reinforcing grades), magnesium hydroxide, boron nitride, aluminum nitride, titanium dioxide, reinforcing zinc oxide, and combinations thereof.

Non-Reinforcing Fillers

[0081] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition further comprises at least one non-reinforcing filler. In other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains no non-reinforcing fillers (i.e., 0 phr). In embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein at least one non-reinforcing filler is utilized, the at least one non-reinforcing filler may be selected from clay (non-reinforcing grades), graphite, magnesium dioxide, aluminum oxide, starch, boron nitride (non-reinforcing grades), silicon nitride, ground rubber, aluminum nitride (non-reinforcing grades), calcium silicate, silicon carbide, and combinations thereof. The term "non-reinforcing filler" is used to refer to a particulate material that has a nitrogen absorption specific surface area (N 2 SA) of less than about 20 m 2 /g (including less than 20 m 2 /g), and in certain embodiments less than about 10 m 2 /g (including less than 10 m 2 /g). The N 2 SA surface area of a particulate material can be determined according to various standard methods including ASTM D6556. In certain embodiments, the term "non-reinforcing filler" is alternatively or additionally used to refer to a particulate material that has a particle size of greater than about 1000 nm (including greater than 1000 nm). In those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, wherein a non-reinforcing filler is present in the rubber composition, the total amount of non-reinforcing filler may vary but is preferably no more than 10 phr (e.g., 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 phr), and in certain embodiments 1-10 phr, no more than 5 phr (e.g., 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 phr), 1-5 phr, or no more than 1 phr.

Hydrocarbon Resins

[0082] As mentioned above, according to the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition comprises (includes) 30-50 phr (e.g., 30, 32, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 phr) of at least one hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C or 30-50 °C (e.g., 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48, or 50 °C). Hydrocarbon resin Tg can be determined by DSC, according to the procedure discussed above for elastomer Tg measurements. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition includes 25-45 phr (e.g., 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, or 45 phr) or 25-40 phr (e.g., 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 or 40 phr) of at least one hydrocarbon resin having a Tg of about 30 to about 50 °C or 30-50 °C. In certain embodiments of the first -fourth embodiments, the at least one hydrocarbon resin has a Tg of about 35 to about 50 °C, 35-50 °C (e.g., 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, or 50 °C), about 35 to about 45 °C or 35-45 °C (e.gr., 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, or 45 °C). As discussed further infra in certain embodiments of the first -fourth embodiments in addition to controlling the amount of hydrocarbon resin (d) used in the tread rubber compositions, it can be helpful to also control the total amount of hydrocarbon resin (d) and oil (e) to within the amounts discussed elsewhere herein.

[0083] According to the first-fourth embodiments, one or more than one hydrocarbon resin may be utilized in the tread rubber composition and the particular type or types of hydrocarbon resin may vary. When more than one hydrocarbon resin is utilized, the above- discussed amounts should be understood to refer to the total amount of all hydrocarbon resins. According to the second and third embodiments disclosed herein and in preferred embodiments of the first, and fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin of (d) comprises an aromatic resin. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the only hydrocarbon resin used in (d) (and present in the overall tread rubber composition) is one or more aromatic resins.

[0084] According to the second and third embodiments, and in certain embodiments of the first and fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin of (d) comprises an aromatic resin optionally in combination with one or more additional resins selected from aliphatic, cycloaliphatic, and terpene resins; in those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein one or more additional resins are present, the total amount of such additional resin(s) is preferably no more than 5 phr, less than 5 phr, less than 4 phr, less than 3 phr, less than 2 phr, or less than 1 phr (and in each instance no more than 20% by weight, preferably no more than 15% or no more than 10% by weight of the overall amount of hydrocarbon resin of (d)). In other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin of (d) consists of an aromatic resin. When an aromatic resin is used, one or more than one aromatic resin may be utilized. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin excludes any terpene resin ( .e., 0 phr of terpene resin is present in the tread rubber composition). As used herein, the term aromatic resin should be understood to include both aromatic homopolymer resins and aromatic copolymer resins. An aromatic copolymer resins refers to a hydrocarbon resin which comprises a combination of one or more aromatic monomers in combination with one or more other (non-aromatic) monomers, with the largest amount of any type of monomer being aromatic. An aromatic copolymer resin would include a hydrocarbon resin having 45% by weight aromatic monomers, in addition to 25% by weight cycloaliphatic monomers and 30% by weight aliphatic monomers as well as a hydrocarbon resin having 55% by weight aromatic monomers, in addition to 30% by weight cycloaliphatic monomers and 15% by weight aliphatic monomers. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin of (c) comprises one or more aromatic copolymer resins having a majority by weight of all monomers being aromatic (e.g., 51%, 55%, 60%, 65%, etc.). Non-limiting examples of aromatic resins suitable for use as the hydrocarbon resin (d) in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments include coumarone-indene resins and alkyl-phenol resins as well as vinyl aromatic homopolymer or copolymer resins such as those including one or more of the following monomers: alpha-methylstyrene, styrene, ortho-methylstyrene, meta-methylstyrene, para-methylstyrene, vinyltoluene, para(tert-butyl)styrene, methoxystyrene, chlorostyrene, hydroxystyrene, vinylmesitylene, divinylbenzene, vinylnaphthalene or any vinyl aromatic monomer resulting from C9 fraction or C8-C10 fraction. Non-limiting examples of vinylaromatic copolymer resins include vinylaromatic/terpene copolymer resins (e.g., limonene/styrene copolymer resins), vinylaromatic/C5 fraction resins (e.g., C5 fraction/styrene copolymer resin), vinylaromatic/aliphatic copolymer resins (e.g., CPD/styrene copolymer resin, and DCPD/styrene copolymer resin).

[0085] In certain preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one hydrocarbon resin (d) comprises a vinylaromatic homopolymer resin, vinylaromatic copolymer resin, or a combination thereof. In other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one hydrocarbon resin (d) consists of a vinylaromatic homopolymer, vinylaromatic copolymer resin, or a combination thereof. Non-limiting examples of alkyl-phenol resins include alkylphenol-acetylene resins such as p-tert-butylphenol-acetylene resins, alkylphenol-formaldehyde resins (such as those having a low degree of polymerization). Exemplary such resins are commercially available from various companies including Chemfax, Dow Chemical Company, Eastman Chemical Company, Idemitsu, Neville Chemical Company, Nippon, Polysat Inc., Resinall Corp., and Zeon under various trade names. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the aromatic resin of (d) may include a hydrogenated form of one of the aromatic resins discussed above (i.e., a hydrogenated aromatic resin). In other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the aromatic resin of (d) excludes any hydrogenated aromatic resin; in other words, in such embodiments, the aromatic resin is not hydrogenated.

[0086] In certain preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin (d) comprises an aromatic resin based upon one or more of the above- mentioned vinyl aromatic monomers (e.g., styrene, alpha-methylstyrene); in certain such embodiments at least 80% by weight, at least 85% by weight, at least 90% by weight, at least 95% by weight, at least 98% by weight, at least 99% by weight, or even 100% by weight of the monomers in the aromatic resin are aromatic monomers. In certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin (d) consists of an aromatic resin based upon one or more of the above-mentioned vinyl aromatic monomers (e.g., styrene, alpha-methylstyrene); in certain such embodiments at least 80% by weight, at least 85% by weight, at least 90% by weight, at least 95% by weight, at least 98% by weight, at least 99% by weight, or even 100% by weight of the monomers in the aromatic resin are aromatic monomers.

[0087] As mentioned above, in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one hydrocarbon resin of (d) comprises an aromatic resin in combination with an aliphatic resin. Non-limiting examples of aliphatic resins include C5 fraction homopolymer and copolymer resins. The amount of any aliphatic resin used in (d) is preferably limited. According to the first -fourth embodiments, the total amount of any aliphatic resin used in combination with the aromatic resin is preferably no more than 5 phr, less than 5 phr, less than 4 phr, less than 3 phr, less than 2 phr, or less than 1 phr (and in each instance no more than 20% by weight, preferably no more than 15% or no more than 10% by weight of the overall amount of hydrocarbon resin of (d)). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one hydrocarbon resin of (d) contains less than 50% by weight (e.g., 49%, 45%, 40%, 35%, 30%, 25%, 20%, 15%, 10%, 5% or less) aliphatic monomer (e.g., C5 monomer), preferably less than 40% by weight aliphatic monomer or less than 30% by weight aliphatic monomer. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one hydrocarbon resin of (d) contains 0% by weight aliphatic monomer. [0088] As mentioned above, in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one hydrocarbon resin of (d) comprises an aromatic resin in combination with a cycloaliphatic resin. Non-limiting examples of cycloaliphatic resins include cyclopentadiene ("CPD") homopolymer or copolymer resins, dicyclopentadiene ("DCPD") homopolymer or copolymer resins, and combinations thereof. The amount of any cycloaliphatic resin used in (d) is preferably limited. According to the first-fourth embodiments, the total amount of any cycloaliphatic resin used in combination with the aromatic resin is preferably no more than 5 phr, less than 5 phr, less than 4 phr, less than 3 phr, less than 2 phr, or less than 1 phr (and in each instance no more than 20% by weight, preferably no more than 15% or no more than 10% by weight of the overall amount of hydrocarbon resin of (d)).

[0089] As mentioned above, in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the at least one hydrocarbon resin of (d) comprises an aromatic resin in combination with a terpene resin. Non-limiting examples of terpene resins include alpha-pinene resins, beta-pinene resins, limonene resins (e.g., L-limonene, D-limonene, dipentene which is a racemic mixture of L- and D-isomers), beta-phellandrene, delta-3-carene, delta-2-carene, and combinations thereof. The amount of any terpene resin used in (d) is preferably limited. According to the first-fourth embodiments, the total amount of any terpene resin used in combination with the aromatic resin is preferably no more than 5 phr, less than 5 phr, less than 4 phr, less than 3 phr, less than 2 phr, or less than 1 phr (and in each instance no more than 20% by weight, preferably no more than 15% or no more than 10% by weight of the overall amount of hydrocarbon resin of (d)). As mentioned above, in preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin (d) includes no terpene resin (i.e., 0 phr).

[0090] In certain preferred embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin (d) has a softening point of about 70 to about 100 °C, 70-100 °C (e.g., 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, or 100 °C), preferably about 75 to about 95 °C or 75-95 °C (e.g., 75, 80, 85, 90, or 95 °C). Generally the softening point of a hydrocarbon resin will have a relationship to its Tg such that the Tg is lower than its softening point, and such that the lower the Tg the lower the softening point. As a non-limiting example, for two hydrocarbon resins having Tg's of 70 and 100 °C, the resin with the Tg of 70 °C will have a lower softening point than the resin with the Tg of 100 °C.

[0091] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin (d) meets at least one of the following: (a) a Mw of 1000 to about 4000 grams/mole, 1000-4000 grams/mole (e.g., 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2400, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2800, 2900, 3000, 3100, 3200, 3300, 3400, 3500, 3600, 3700, 3800, 3900, or 4000 grams/mole), about 1000 to about 3000 grams/mole, 1000-3000 grams/mole (e.g., 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2400, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2800, 2900, or 3000 grams/mole), about 1000 to about 2500 grams/mole, 1000-2500 grams/mole (e.g., 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2400, or 2500 grams/mole), about 1000 to about 2000 grams/mole, 1000-2000 grams/mole (e.g., 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, or 2000 grams/mole), about 1100 to about 1800 grams/mole, or 1100-1800 grams/mole (e.g., 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, or 1800 grams/mole); (b) a Mn of about 700 to about 1500 grams/mole, 700-1500 grams/mole (e.g., 700, 800, 900, 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, or 1500 grams/mole), about 800 to about 1400 grams/mole, 800-1400 grams/mole (e.g., 800, 900, 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, or 1400 grams/mole), about 800 to about 1300 grams/mole, 800-1300 grams/mole (e.g., 800, 900, 1000, 1100, 1200, or 1300 grams/mole), about 900 to about 1200 grams/mole, or 900-1200 grams/mole (e.g., 900, 950, 1000, 1050, 1100, 1150, or 1200 grams/mole); or (c) a polydispersity (Mw/Mn) of about 1 to about 2, 1-2 (e.g., 1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, or 2), about 1.1 to about 1.8, 1.1-1.8 (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, or 1.8), about 1.1 to about 1.7, 1.1-1.7 (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, or 1.7), about 1.2 to about 1.5, or 1.2 to 1.5 (e.g., 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, or 1.5). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin (d) has a Mw according to one of the ranges provided above, in combination with a Mn according to one of the ranges provided above, further in combination with a Mw/Mn according to one of the ranges provided above.

[0092] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the hydrocarbon resin (d) comprises an aromatic resin (as discussed above) having an aromatic hydrogen content (as measured by 1H NMR) of about 51 to about 65% (e.g., 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, or 65%), 51-65%, about 51 to about 60%, 51-60% (e.g., 51%, 52%, 53%, 54%, 55%, 56%, 57%, 58%, 59%, or 60%), about 51 to about 55%, or 51-55% (e.g, 51, 52, 53, 54, or 55%). The amounts of aromatic hydrogen are weight percentages of hydrogen atoms bonded to aromatic carbons, based upon the total weight of hydrogen atoms present in the respective hydrocarbon resin. According to such NMR measurement, a sample of the resin is dissolved in chloroform and the total amount of all hydrogens (i.e., aromatic hydrogen, aliphatic hydrogen, and olefinic hydrogen) is 100%.

Oils

[0093] As mentioned above, according to the first and second embodiments, the tread rubber composition comprises 10-30 phr (e.g., 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or 0 phr) of oil. According to the third embodiment and in certain embodiments of the first, second, and fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition comprises 10-24 phr of oil (e.g., 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, or 15 phr) or 15-20 phr of oil (e.g., 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, or 15 phr). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition comprises 10-20 (e.g., 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, or 10 phr) of oil. The term oil is meant to encompass both free oil (which is usually added during the compounding process) and extender oil (which is used to extend a rubber). Thus, by stating that the tread rubber composition comprises 10-30 phr of oil it should be understood that the total amount of any free oil and any extender oil is 10-30 phr. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains only free oil in one of the foregoing amounts (e.g., 10-30 phr, 10-24 phr, etc.). In other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains only extender oil in one of the foregoing amounts (e.g., 10-30 phr, 10-24 phr, etc.). In those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein an oil-extended rubber is used the amount of oil used to prepare the oil- extended rubber may vary. In those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein an oil-extended rubber is used, the amount of oil used to prepare the oil-extended rubber may vary; in certain such embodiments, the amount of extender oil present in the oil-extended rubber (polymer) is 10-50 parts oil per 100 parts of rubber (e.g., 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 or 50 parts of oil per 100 parts or rubber), preferably 10-40 parts oil per 100 parts or rubber or 20-40 parts oil per 100 parts of rubber. As a non-limiting example, extender oil could be used in an amount of 40 parts oil per 100 parts rubber in an SBR for (ii) which SBR is used in an amount of 40 parts in the overall tread rubber composition and, thus, the amount of oil contributed by the oil- extended SBR to the tread rubber composition would be described as 16 phr. When an oil- extended rubber is used in the elastomer component of the tread rubber composition disclosed herein, the amounts specified for (i), (ii) and (iii) should be understood to refer to the amounts of rubber only rather than the amounts of oil-extended rubber. As used herein, oil refers to both petroleum based oils (e.g., aromatic, naphthenic, and low PCA oils) as well as plant oils (such as can be harvested from vegetables, nuts, and seeds). Plant oils will generally comprise triglycerides and the term should be understood to include synthetic triglycerides as well as those actually sourced from a plant.

[0094] According to the first-fourth embodiments when one or more oils are present in the tread rubber composition, various types of processing and extender oils may be utilized, including, but not limited to aromatic, naphthenic, and low PCA oils (petroleum-sourced or plant- sourced). Suitable low PCA oils include those having a polycyclic aromatic content of less than 3 percent by weight as determined by the IP346 method. Procedures for the IP346 method may be found in Standard Methods for Analysis & Testing of Petroleum and Related Products and British Standard 2000 Parts, 2003, 62nd edition, published by the Institute of Petroleum, United Kingdom. Exemplary petroleum-sourced low PCA oils include mild extraction solvates (MES), treated distillate aromatic extracts (TDAE), TRAE, and heavy naphthenics. Exemplary MES oils are available commercially as CATENEX SNR from SHELL, PROREX 15, and FLEXON 683 from EXXONMOBIL, VIVATEC 200 from BP, PLAXOLENE MS from TOTAL FINA ELF, TUDALEN 4160/4225 from DAHLEKE, MES-H from REPSOL, MES from Z8, and OLIO MES S201 from AGIP. Exemplary TDAE oils are available as TYREX 20 from EXXONMOBIL, VIVATEC 500, VIVATEC 180, and ENERTHENE 1849 from BP, and EXTENSOIL 1996 from REPSOL. Exemplary heavy naphthenic oils are available as SHELLFLEX 794, ERGON BLACK OIL, ERGON H2000, CROSS C2000, CROSS C2400, and SAN JOAQUIN 2000L. Exemplary low PCA oils also include various plant-sourced oils such as can be harvested from vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Non-limiting examples include, but are not limited to, soy or soybean oil, sunflower oil (including high oleic sunflower oil), safflower oil, corn oil, linseed oil, cotton seed oil, rapeseed oil, cashew oil, sesame oil, camellia oil, jojoba oil, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. The foregoing processing oils can be used as an extender oil, i.e., to prepare an oil-extended polymer or copolymer or as a processing or free oil.

[0095] In those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein one or more oils are present in the tread rubber composition, the Tg of the oil or oils used may vary. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, any oil utilized has a Tg of about -40 to about - 100 °C, -40 to -100 °C (e.g., -40, -45, -50, -55, -60, -65, -70, -75, -80, -85, -90, -95, or -100 °C), about -40 to about -90 °C, -40 to -90 °C (e.g., -40, -45, -50, -55, -60, -65, -70, -75, -80, -85, or -90 °C), about -45 to about -85 °C, -45 to -85 °C (e.g., -45, -50, -55, -60, -65, -70, -75, -80, or -85 °C), about -50 to about -80 °C, or -50 to -80 °C (e.g., -50, -55, -60, -65, -70, -75, or -80 °C).

[0096] Preferably according to the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains less than 5 phr (e.g., 4.5, 4, 3, 2, 1, or 0 phr) of MES or TDAE oil, preferably no MES or TDAE oil (i.e., 0 phr). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains no petroleum oil (i.e., 0 phr) and instead any oil utilized is a plant oil. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains soybean oil in one of the above-mentioned amounts. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition contains no sunflower oil (i.e., 0 phr).

[0097] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition includes one or more ester plasticizers. Suitable ester plasticizers are known to those of skill in the art and include, but are not limited to, phosphate esters, phthalate esters, adipate esters and oleate esters (i.e., derived from oleic acid). Taking into account that an ester is a chemical compound derived from an acid wherein at least one -OH is replaced with an -O- alkyl group, various alkyl groups may be used in suitable ester plasticizers for use in the tread rubber compositions, including generally linear or branched alkyl of Cl to C20 (e.g., Cl, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7, C8, C9, CIO, Cll, C12, C13, C14, C15, C16, C17, C18, C19, C20), or C6 to C12. Certain of the foregoing esters are based upon acids which have more than one -OH group and, thus, can accommodate one or more than one O-alkyl group (e.g., trialkyl phosphates, dialkyl phthalates, dialkyl adipates). Non-limiting examples of suitable ester plasticizers include trioctyl phosphate, dioctyl phthalate, dioctyl adipate, nonyl oleate, octyl oleate, and combinations thereof. The use of an ester plasticizer such as one or more of the foregoing may be beneficial to the snow or ice performance of a tire made from a tread rubber composition containing such ester plasticizer at least in part due to the relatively low Tg of ester plasticizers. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition includes one or more ester plasticizers having a Tg of -40 °C to -70 °C (e.g., -40, -45, -50, -55, -60, -65, or -70 °C), or -50 °C to -65 °C (e.g., -50, -51, -52, -53, -54, -55, -56, -57, -58, -59, -60, -61, -62, -63, -64, or - 65 °C ). In those embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments wherein one or more ester plasticizers is utilized the amount utilized may vary. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, one or more ester plasticizers are utilized in a total amount of 1-12 phr (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 phr), 1-10, phr (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 phr), 2-6 phr (e.g., 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 phr) or 2-5 phr (e.g., 2, 3, 4, or 5 phr) In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, one or more ester plasticizers is used in combination with oil where the oil is present in an amount of 1 to no more than 30 phr, or 1-30 phr. In other embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, one or more ester plasticizers is used without any oil being present in the tread rubber composition (i.e., 0 phr of oil).

[0098] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the total amount of hydrocarbon resin (d) and oil (e) is limited. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the total amount of hydrocarbon resin (d) and oil (e) is no more than 70 phr (e.g., 70, 69, 68, 67, 66, 65, 64, 63, 62, 61, 60, 59, 55, 54, 50, 49, 45, 44, or 40 phr, or less), no more than 60 phr (e.g., 60, 59, 55, 54, 50, 49, 45, 44, or 40 phr, or less), or no more than 59 phr (e.g., 59, 55, 54, 50, 49, 45, 44, or 40 phr, or less). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the total amount of hydrocarbon resin (d) and oil (e) is no more than 55 phr (e.g., 55, 54, 50, 49, 45, 44, or 40 phr, or less), or no more than 50 phr (e.g., 50, 49, 45, 44, or 40, or less). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the total amount of hydrocarbon resin (d) and oil (e) is 45-70 phr (e.g., 45, 49, 50, 54, 55, 59, 60, 64, 65, 69, or 70 phr), 45-60 phr (e.g., 45, 49, 50, 54, 55, 59, or 60 phr), 25-59 phr (e.g., 25, 29, 30, 34, 35, 39, 40, 44, 45, 49, 50, 54, 55, or 59 phr).

Cure Package [0099] As discussed above, according to the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein, the tread rubber composition includes (comprises) a cure package. Although the contents of the cure package may vary according to the first-fourth embodiments, generally, the cure package includes at least one of: a vulcanizing agent; a vulcanizing accelerator; a vulcanizing activator (e.g., zinc oxide, stearic acid, and the like); a vulcanizing inhibitor; and an anti-scorching agent. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the cure package includes at least one vulcanizing agent, at least one vulcanizing accelerator, at least one vulcanizing activator and optionally a vulcanizing inhibitor and/or an anti-scorching agent. Vulcanizing accelerators and vulcanizing activators act as catalysts for the vulcanization agent. Various vulcanizing inhibitors and anti-scorching agents are known in the art and can be selected by one skilled in the art based on the vulcanizate properties desired.

[00100] Examples of suitable types of vulcanizing agents for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, include but are not limited to, sulfur or peroxide- based curing components. Thus, in certain such embodiments, the curative component includes a sulfur-based curative or a peroxide-based curative. In preferred embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the vulcanizing agent comprises a sulfur-based curative; in certain such embodiments, the vulcanizing agent consists (only) of a sulfur-based curative. Examples of specific suitable sulfur vulcanizing agents include "rubbermaker's" soluble sulfur; sulfur donating curing agents, such as an amine disulfide, polymeric polysulfide, or sulfur olefin adducts; and insoluble polymeric sulfur. Preferably, the sulfur vulcanizing agent is soluble sulfur or a mixture of soluble and insoluble polymeric sulfur. For a general disclosure of suitable vulcanizing agents and other components used in curing, e.g., vulcanizing inhibitor and anti-scorching agents, one can refer to Kirk-Othmer, Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 3rd ed., Wiley Interscience, N.Y. 1982, Vol. 20, pp. 365 to 468, particularly Vulcanization Agents and Auxiliary Materials, pp. 390 to 402, or Vulcanization by A. Y. Coran, Encyclopedia of Polymer Science and Engineering, Second Edition (1989 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), both of which are incorporated herein by reference. Vulcanizing agents can be used alone or in combination. Generally, the vulcanizing agents may be used in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments in an amount ranging from 0.1 to 10 phr, including from 1 to 7.5 phr, including from 1 to 5 phr, and preferably from 1 to 3.5 phr. [00101] Vulcanizing accelerators are used to control the time and/or temperature required for vulcanization and to improve properties of the vulcanizate. Examples of suitable vulcanizing accelerators for use in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein include, but are not limited to, thiazole vulcanization accelerators, such as 2- mercaptobenzothiazole, 2,2'-dithiobis(benzothiazole) (MBTS), N-cyclohexyl-2-benzothiazole- sulfenamide (CBS), N-tert-butyl-2-benzothiazole-sulfenamide (TBBS), and the like; guanidine vulcanization accelerators, such as diphenyl guanidine (DPG) and the like; thiuram vulcanizing accelerators; carbamate vulcanizing accelerators; and the like. Generally, the amount of the vulcanization accelerator used ranges from 0.1 to 10 phr, preferably 0.5 to 5 phr. Preferably, any vulcanization accelerator used in the tread rubber compositions of the first-fourth embodiments excludes any thiurams such as thiuram monosulfides and thiuram polysulfides (examples of which include TMTM (tetramethyl thiuram monosulfide), TMTD (tetramethyl thiuram disulfide), DPTT (dipentamethylene thiuram tetrasulfide), TETD (tetraethyl thiuram disulfide), TiBTD (tetraisobutyl thiuram disulfide), and TBzTD (tetrabenzyl thiuram disulfide)); in other words, the tread rubber compositions of the first-fourth embodiments preferably contain no thiuram accelerators (i.e., 0 phr).

[00102] Vulcanizing activators are additives used to support vulcanization. Generally vulcanizing activators include both an inorganic and organic component. Zinc oxide is the most widely used inorganic vulcanization activator. Various organic vulcanization activators are commonly used including stearic acid, palmitic acid, lauric acid, and zinc salts of each of the foregoing. Generally, in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments the amount of vulcanization activator used ranges from 0.1 to 6 phr (e.g., 0.1, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, or 6 phr), preferably 0.5 to 4 phr (e.g., 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3 3.5, or 4 phr). In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, one or more vulcanization activators are used which includes one or more thiourea compounds (used in the of the foregoing amounts), and optionally in combination with one or more of the foregoing vulcanization activators. Generally, a thiourea compound can be understood as a compound having the structure (R 1 )(R 2 )NS(=C)N(R 3 )(R 4 ) wherein each of R 1 , R 2 , R 3 , and R 4 are independently selected from H, alkyl, aryl, and N-containing substituents (e.g., guanyl). Optionally, two of the foregoing structures can be bonded together through N (removing one of the R groups) in a dithiobiurea compound. In certain embodiments, one of R 1 or R 2 and one of R 3 or R 4 can be bonded together with one or more methylene groups (-CH 2 -) therebetween. In certain embodiments of the first- fourth embodiments, the thiourea has one or two of R 1 , R 2 , R 3 and R 4 selected from one of the foregoing groups with the remaining R groups being hydrogen. Exemplary alkyl include C1-C6 linear, branched or cyclic groups such as methyl, ethyl, propyl, iso-propyl, butyl, iso-butyl, pentyl, hexyl, and cyclohexyl. Exemplary aryl include C6-C12 aromatic groups such as phenyl, tolyl, and naphthyl. Exemplary thiourea compounds include, but are not limited to, dihydrocarbylthioureas such as dialkylthioureas and diarylthioureas. Non-limiting examples of particular thiourea compounds include one or more of thiourea, N,N'-diphenylthiourea, trimethylthiourea, N,N'- diethylthiourea (DEU), N,N'-dimethylthiourea, N,N'-dibutylthiourea, ethylenethiourea, N,N'- diisopropylthiourea, N,N'-dicyclohexylthiourea, l,3-di(o-tolyl)thiourea, l,3-di(p-tolyl)thiourea, l,l-diphenyl-2-thiourea, 2,5-dithiobiurea, guanylthiourea, l-(l-naphthyl)-2-thiourea, 1-phenyl- 2-thiourea, p-tolylthiourea, and o-tolylthiourea. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the activator includes at least one thiourea compound selected from thiourea, N,N'-diethylthiourea, trimethylthiourea, N,N'-diphenylthiourea, and N-N'-dimethylthiourea.

[00103] Vulcanization inhibitors are used to control the vulcanization process and generally retard or inhibit vulcanization until the desired time and/or temperature is reached. Common vulcanization inhibitors include, but are not limited to, PVI (cyclohexylthiophthalmide) from Santogard. Generally, in certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments the amount of vulcanization inhibitor is 0.1 to 3 phr, preferably 0.5 to 2 phr.

Preparing The Rubber Compositions

[00104] The particular steps involved in preparing the tread rubber compositions of the first-fourth embodiments disclosed herein are generally those of conventionally practiced methods comprising mixing the ingredients in at least one non-productive master-batch stage and a final productive mixing stage. Similarly, the discussion herein of exemplary particular steps involved in preparing the tread rubber compositions of the first-fourth embodiment should be understood as being equally applicable to the process of the fifth embodiment. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition is prepared by combining the ingredients for the rubber composition (as disclosed above) by methods known in the art, such as, for example, by kneading the ingredients together in a Banbury mixer or on a milled roll. Such methods generally include at least one non-productive master-batch mixing stage and a final productive mixing stage. The term non-productive master-batch stage is known to those of skill in the art and generally understood to be a mixing stage (or stages) where no vulcanizing agents or vulcanization accelerators are added. The term final productive mixing stage is also known to those of skill in the art and generally understood to be the mixing stage where the vulcanizing agents and vulcanization accelerators are added into the rubber composition. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition is prepared by a process comprising more than one non-productive master-batch mixing stage.

[00105] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition is prepared by a process wherein the master-batch mixing stage includes at least one of tandem mixing or intermeshing mixing. Tandem mixing can be understood as including the use of a mixer with two mixing chambers with each chamber having a set of mixing rotors; generally, the two mixing chambers are stacked together with the upper mixing being the primary mixer and the lower mixer accepting a batch from the upper or primary mixer. In certain embodiments, the primary mixer utilizes intermeshing rotors and in other embodiments the primary mixer utilizes tangential rotors. Preferably, the lower mixer utilizes intermeshing rotors. Intermeshing mixing can be understood as including the use of a mixer with intermeshing rotors. Intermeshing rotors refers to a set of rotors where the major diameter of one rotor in a set interacts with the minor diameter of the opposing rotor in the set such that the rotors intermesh with each other. Intermeshing rotors must be driven at an even speed because of the interaction between the rotors. In contrast to intermeshing rotors, tangential rotors refers to a set of rotors where each rotor turns independently of the other in a cavity that may be referred to as a side. Generally, a mixer with tangential rotors will include a ram whereas a ram is not necessary in a mixer with intermeshing rotors.

[00106] Generally, the rubbers (or polymers) and at least one reinforcing filler (as well as any silane coupling agent and oil) will be added in a non-productive or master-batch mixing stage or stages. Generally, at least the vulcanizing agent component and the vulcanizing accelerator component of a cure package will be added in a final or productive mixing stage.

[00107] In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition is prepared using a process wherein at least one non-productive master batch mixing stage conducted at a temperature of about 130 °C to about 200 °C. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition is prepared using a final productive mixing stage conducted at a temperature below the vulcanization temperature in order to avoid unwanted pre-cure of the rubber composition. Therefore, the temperature of the productive or final mixing stage generally should not exceed about 120 °C and is typically about 40 °C to about 120 °C, or about 60 °C to about 110 °C and, especially, about 75 °C to about 100 °C. In certain embodiments of the first-fourth embodiments, the tread rubber composition is prepared according to a process that includes at least one non-productive mixing stage and at least one productive mixing stage. The use of silica fillers may optionally necessitate a separate re-mill stage for separate addition of a portion or all of such filler. This stage often is performed at temperatures similar to, although often slightly lower than, those employed in the masterbatch stage, i.e., ramping from about 90 °C to a drop temperature of about 150 °C.

Tire Tread Properties

[00108] The use of the tire tread rubber composition of the first-third embodiments in tires, may result in a tire having improved or desirable tread properties. These improved or desirable properties may include one or more of rolling resistance, snow or ice traction, wet traction, or dry handling. While these properties may be measured by various methods, the values referred to herein for rolling resistance, snow or ice traction, wet traction, and dry handling refer to tan d values measured at the following temperatures and according to the following procedures. Tan d values can be measured with a dynamic mechanical thermal spectrometer (Eplexor ® 500N from Gabo Qualimeter Testanlagen GmbH of Ahiden, Germany) under the following conditions: measurement mode: tensile test mode; measuring frequency: 52 Hz; applying 0.2% strain from 50 to -5 °C and 1% strain from -5 to 65 °C; measuring temperatures of -30 °C, 0 °C, 30°C, and 60 °C; sample shape: 4.75 mm wide x 29 mm long x 2.0 mm thick. Measurement is made upon a cured sample of rubber (cured for 15 minutes at 170°C). A rubber composition's tan d at -BO °C is indicative of its snow or ice traction when incorporated into a tire tread, tan d at 0 °C is indicative of its wet traction when incorporated into a tire tread, tan d at 30 °C is indicative of its dry handling when incorporated into a tire tread and its tan d at 60 °C is indicative of its rolling resistance when incorporated into a tire tread.

[00109] In certain embodiments of the first-third embodiments, the rubber composition has a value for tan d at 60 °C of 0.18 to 0.25 (e.g., 0.18, 0.19, 0.2, 0.21, 0.22, 0.23, 0.24, or 0.25), 0.19 to 0.24 (e.g., 0.19, 0.2, 0.21, 0.22, 0.23, or 0.24), or 0.2 to 0.23 (e.g., 0.2, 0.21, 0.22, 0.23, or 0.24). In certain embodiments of the first-third embodiments, the value for tan d at 60 °C is combined with at least one of the following: (a) a value for tan d at -30 °C of at least 3 times the tan d at 60 °C value (e.g., 3 times, 3.1 times, 3.2 times, 3.3 times, 3.4 times, 3.5 times, 3.6 times, 3.7 times, 3.8 times, 3.9 times, 4 times, 4.1 times, 4.2 times, 4.3 times, 4.4 times, 4.5 times, 4.6 times, 4.7 times, 4.8 times, 4.9 times, 5 times, or more); (b) a value for tan d at 0 °C of at least 2 times the tan d at 60 °C value (e.g., 2 times, 2.1 times, 2.2 times, 2.3 times, 2.4 times, 2.5 times, 2.6 times, 2.7 times, 2.8 times, 2.9 times, 3 times, 3.1 times, 3.2 times, 3.3 times, 3.4 times, 3.5 times, 3.6 times, 3.7 times, 3.8 times, 3.9 times, 4 times, or more), preferably between 2.2 times and 3 times the tan d at 60 °C value; or (c) a value for tan d at 30 °C of at least 1.1 times the tan d at 60 °C value (e.g., 1.1 times, 1.2 times, 1.3 times, 1.4 times, 1.5 times, 1.6 times, 1.7 times, 1.8 times, 1.9 times, 2 times, or more), preferably between 1.1 times and 2 times the tan d at 60 °C value; in certain such embodiments, the value for tan d at 60 °C is combined with each of (a), (b), and (c). In certain embodiments of the first-third embodiments, one of the foregoing values for tan d at 60 °C (e.g., 0.18 to 0.25, 0.19 to 0.24, or 0.2 to 0.23) is combined with (a) a value for d at -30 °C of between 3 times and 4 times (e.g., 3 times, 3.1 times, 3.2 times, 3.3 times, 3.4 times, 3.5 times, 3.6 times, 3.7 times, 3.8 times, 3.9 times, 4 times) the tan d at 60 °C value. In certain embodiments of the first-third embodiments, one of the foregoing values for tan d at 60 °C (e.g., 0.18 to 0.25, 0.19 to 0.24, or 0.2 to 0.23) is combined with (b) a value for d at 0 °C of between 2.2 and 3 times (e.g., 2.2 times, 2.3 times, 2.4 times, 2.5 times, 2.6 times, 2.7 times, 2.8 times, 2.9 times, or 3 times) the tan d at 60 °C value. In certain embodiments of the first-third embodiments, one of the foregoing values for tan d at 60 °C (e.g., 0.18 to 0.25, 0.19 to 0.24, or 0.2 to 0.23) is combined with (c) a value for d at 30 °C of between 1.1 and 2 times (e.g., 1.1 times, 1.2 times, 1.3 times, 1.4 times, 1.5 times, 1.6 times, 1.7 times, 1.8 times, 1.9 times, or 2 times) the tan d at 60 °C value. In certain embodiments of the first-third embodiments, one of the foregoing values for tan d at 60 °C (e.g., 0.18 to 0.25, 0.19 to 0.24, or 0.2 to 0.23) is combined with one of the foregoing values for tan d at -30 °C, one of the foregoing values for tan d at 0 °C, and one of the foregoing values for tan d at 30 °C.

[00110] This application discloses several numerical range limitations that support any range within the disclosed numerical ranges, even though a precise range limitation is not stated verbatim in the specification, because the embodiments of the compositions and methods disclosed herein could be practiced throughout the disclosed numerical ranges. With respect to the use of substantially any plural or singular terms herein, those having skill in the art can translate from the plural to the singular or from the singular to the plural as is appropriate to the context or application. The various singular or plural permutations may be expressly set forth herein for sake of clarity.

[00111] It will be understood by those within the art that, in general, terms used herein, and especially in the appended claims are generally intended as "open" terms. For example, the term "including" should be interpreted as "including but not limited to," the term "having" should be interpreted as "having at least," the term "includes" should be interpreted as "includes but is not limited to." It will be further understood by those within the art that if a specific number of an introduced claim recitation is intended, such an intent will be explicitly recited in the claim, and in the absence of such recitation no such intent is present. For example, as an aid to understanding, the following appended claims may contain usage of the introductory phrases "at least one" and "one or more" to introduce claim recitations. However, the use of such phrases should not be construed to imply that the introduction of a claim recitation by the indefinite articles "a" or "an" limits any particular claim containing such introduced claim recitation to inventions containing only one such recitation, even when the same claim includes the introductory phrases "one or more" or "at least one" and indefinite articles such as "a" or "an" (e.g., "a" or "an" should typically be interpreted to mean "at least one" or "one or more"); the same holds true for the use of definite articles used to introduce claim recitations. In addition, even if a specific number of an introduced claim recitation is explicitly recited, those skilled in the art will recognize that such recitation should typically be interpreted to mean at least the recited number (e.g., the bare recitation of "two recitations," without other modifiers, typically means at least two recitations, or two or more recitations). Furthermore, in those instances where a convention analogous to "at least one of A, B, and C, etc." is used, in general such a construction is intended in the sense one having skill in the art would understand the convention (e.g., " a system having at least one of A, B, and C" would include but not be limited to systems that have A alone, B alone, C alone, A and B together, A and C together, B and C together, and/or A, B, and C together, etc.). It will be further understood by those within the art that virtually any disjunctive word or phrase presenting two or more alternative terms, whether in the description, claims, or drawings, should be understood to contemplate the possibilities of including one of the terms, either of the terms, or both terms. For example, the phrase "A or B" will be understood to include the possibilities of "A" or "B" or "A and B."

[00112] All references, including but not limited to patents, patent applications, and non-patent literature are hereby incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.

[00113] While various aspects and embodiments of the compositions and methods have been disclosed herein, other aspects and embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art. The various aspects and embodiments disclosed herein are for purposes of illustration and are not intended to be limiting, with the true scope and spirit being indicated by the claims.