Properties of synthetic rubber

Written by vicki a. benge
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Properties of synthetic rubber
Tire manufacturers are the world's largest consumers of synthetic rubber. (Nicholas Eveleigh/Photodisc/Getty Images)

During World War II, decreased supplies of natural rubber hastened the pace of synthetic rubber production. Innovations in the industry continued to improve until today, according to California State University-Chico, 65 per cent of the rubber production in the world is devoted to synthetic rubber, and more than 50 per cent of the synthetic production goes to the manufacturing of tires. Produced via chemical reactions, synthetic rubber exhibits properties such as elasticity, water repellence and resistance to electricity, heat, abrasion and certain chemicals.

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Synthetic rubber displays the capacity of elasticity, synonymous in colloquial terms to bounciness, flexibility or pliability. Elasticity in scientific terms means a tendency of objects to return to their original size and shape after being stretched, squashed or misshapen in some manner. Synthetic foam rubber, as seen in mattresses and pillows, is well-known for its elasticity.

Water Repellence

The characteristic or property of water repellence is exhibited by materials constructed of synthetic rubber. Water-repellent materials are those that do not allow water molecules to penetrate or pass through. Thus, synthetic rubber absorbs little to no water. For example, synthetic rubber moulded into protective covers for electrical cables and phone lines protect the cables and wires from moisture, and thus erosion and decomposition.

Electrical Resistance

Another property that makes it possible for synthetic rubber products to be used in the electrical industry is electrical resistance. Many materials, such as most metals, readily conduct electricity, permitting a flow of current. On the other hand, synthetic rubber is a nonconductor, or insulator, resisting electric currents and greatly suppressing the flow of electricity.

Heat Resistance

Synthetic rubbers exhibit high resistance to heat, meaning the material poorly conducts heat energy transference. Heat-resistant synthetic rubbers are used in insulating materials, tire production and as protective coatings on electronics parts, among other usages.

Chemical Resistance

Certain synthetic rubbers display properties of chemical resistance, which in this instance means the chemical composition of the material cannot be readily changed through contact with other materials. For example, neoprene, one of the first synthetic rubbers developed, is used in hoses for gasoline transport due to its high resistance to the chemicals in the fuel.

Resistance to Abrasion

GR-S stands for Government Rubber-Styrene, a type of synthetic rubber named in World War II during the war effort in the United States. GR-S shows strong resistance to abrasion--erosion caused by friction--and is used in the manufacturing of wear-resistant automobile and truck tires. Rubber with a resistance to abrasion is also widely used in the soles of shoes.

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