Properties of Styrene-Butadiene Rubber

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Properties of Styrene-Butadiene Rubber
Styrene-butadiene rubber is used for car tires. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Styrene-butadiene rubber is used to make car tires. It has other uses, but more than 70 per cent of this synthetic rubber goes into the tires on cars around the world. Its resistance to abrasion and most oils make it a good choice for travelling paved roads. Although it is not as good as natural rubber in other areas, it is easier to process and can be blended with other rubbers to create a better mix for the job it is being made to perform.

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How SBR is Made

Styrene-butadiene rubber, abbreviated SBR, is an elastomer. This means that it springs back into shape after it is stretched, due to the irregularly coiled shape of its molecules. Natural rubber is also an elastomer. It is made in one of two ways: emulsion or solution. An emulsion is when the base materials are mixed but do not completely blend together into a new substance. Solution is when the two are completely mixed down to the molecular level. Emulsion SBR is made continuously, but solution SBR can be made in batches so the exact mixture can be refined. This makes solution SBR more versatile but more expensive for manufacturers to produce.

Oil Resistance

One of the factors that make SBR a suitable tire rubber is its oil resistance. Oil can get on road surfaces from cars and is transferred to tires when they travel on that road. Tires can also come into contact with oil during maintenance. Petroleum especially can eat away at rubber. SBR is highly resistant to degradation caused by almost all oil. The exception is mineral oil, to which SBR has poor resistance.

Other Resistance

Oil is not the only material that a rubber needs resistance to in order to be useful. Styrene-butadiene has a high resistance to water, important for rainy days. It resists acid chemicals and lye as well. SBR has a high resistance to abrasion, meaning it can stand up to a lot of wear and tear compared with other rubbers. It is also resistant to oxidation, the process of oxygen binding with other molecules. This causes rust in metal objects, but SBR is not prone to this type of corrosion.

Heat Ranges

Styrene-butadiene rubber retains its shape and other properties in a range of temperatures. The ability to withstand temperature is important for items that will be outdoors in all sorts of weather, such as tires. SBR can withstand cold up to minus 65 degrees Fahrenheit and heat of up to 93.3 degrees C, covering the worst winter storms and the most fiery summer sun in areas where humans live.

Other Properties

Rubber provides insulation against electric currents, and SBR is an excellent performer in this area. It adheres reliably to metal, although it does not stay stuck to fabric as well. It is somewhat permeable to gases: not perfectly permeable but not airtight either.

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