Rubber is a versatile material that has found its way into various industries. However, one size does not fit all when it comes to rubber. Just as each business has unique demands and requirements, the type and quality of rubber used can significantly impact production and end product. Therefore, understanding the distinctions between natural and synthetic rubber is essential.
By learning about the features of each type, you can learn about their different benefits and how they might fit your needs. Read on to learn about the differences between these two main types of rubber, their pros and cons, and the many ways they are used in different industries.
Natural rubber is a material made from the sap of the Hevea Brasiliensis, also called the Pará Tree. This tree is native to South America but widely grown in South Asia. Natural rubber polymer has high tensile strength and uniform molecular structure, and vulcanizes quickly. Natural rubber is mostly used to make soft and comfy products, like the shoe soles. Natural rubber is also suitable for the manufacture of tires, carpets, and rubber gloves.
Natural rubber is generated from rubber latex, which consists of tiny rubber pieces suspended in water. The intermolecular forces that keep rubber polymer chains intact are weak, allowing for some stretchability.
Adding crosslinks to the polymer increases this flexibility even more because they help natural rubber return to its original shape after experiencing mechanical stress or tension and then release. Natural rubber is made up of molecules of cis-1,4-polyisoprene, which makes it more elastic.
Natural rubber works well at low temperatures, loses minimal energy every time it changes shape, does not produce much heat when warmed up, has low sag, and is resistant to tears and abrasions. Additionally, natural rubber has a simple production process and is more environmentally friendly due to its organic sources.
Even though natural rubber has a lot of good qualities, it still has one major flaw. Natural rubber quickly breaks down from exposure to oxygen, ozone, oils, and hydrocarbon solvents.
Synthetic rubber is an artificial polymer made out of leftovers from the oil industry. It has some of the same qualities as vulcanized rubber, like the ability to stretch to double its length and then return to its original shape when the tension is removed. Synthetic rubber is used in many different areas, like medicine, pharmaceutics, automobiles, and the electrical sector.
Numerous variants of synthetic rubbers exist, and each one has unique physical and chemical characteristics that support the intended use of the product. Some of the most common and commonly used synthetic rubbers are neoprene (CR), styrene-butadiene copolymer (SBR), silicon rubber, nitrile rubber (NBR), ethylene-propylene-diene monomer (EPDM), and butyl rubber (IIR).
Synthetic rubber is more resistant to oil, several reactive agents, ozone, oxygen, weather conditions, and temperature than natural rubber. It also offers a higher level of consistency, making it easier to produce items with exact dimensions and standards.
When picking between natural and synthetic rubber, one should evaluate the specific features of each type of rubber.
Synthetic rubber is suited for electrical applications because of its low flammability and higher temperature resistance. Synthetic rubber is often used in medical and pharmacy settings because it is safe for food. Lastly, synthetic rubber is flexible, making it preferable to produce mats, seals, and window edges in the automotive industry.
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