From the tires on cars and erasers atop pencils to elastic bands, rubber is an indispensable part of modern life. Commonly used for over 1,000 years, rubber once came from natural sources.
Natural sources made good sense when the production of rubber products was vastly lower. Still, now that global mass production and distribution are the combined standard, it would prove too challenging and expensive to obtain natural rubber materials.
To understand why rubber is still vital in today’s world, read through these three reasons to get a better idea.
1. There Are Many Invaluable Uses for Rubber
As a society that loves cars, you could stop at car tires as the most important reason rubber is vital. However, the list of everyday rubber products shows that rubber has become an invaluable part of modern life. Here are a few uses of rubber that most people couldn’t live without, even if they don’t consider the key material is rubber:
- Rubber stamps
- Swimming caps
- Surfing wetsuits
- Waterproof shoes
- Dishwasher hoses
- Garden hoses
- Shoe soles
- Elastic bands
- Rain boots
- Medical gloves
- Dishwashing gloves
- Rubber balls
- Toys for children, dogs and cats
- And much more
2. There Are 2 Kinds of Rubber to Fit Different Needs
Rubber is either from a natural or man-made source. Each has its uses and benefits:
- Natural Rubber. Sometimes called latex, India rubber or caucho, natural rubber is comprised of a compound of polymers like isoprene. The latex, which is a runny, milky-white liquid, seeps from certain plants, such as common dandelions. The resulting latex is a colloidal suspension, made up of part water and part rubber particles. The chains of molecules in natural rubber can be pulled apart and untangled easily, but they can then spring right back into their original shape, which makes it elastic.
- Synthetic Rubber. Made in chemical and manufacturing plants, synthetic rubbers use a variety of petrochemicals as the basis of rubber production. One of the first petrochemicals used to produce rubber was neoprene, which is the brand name for polychloroprene. Manufacturers still use it today as the basis for synthetic rubber.
3. The Rubber Industry Continues to Develop Modern Materials to Improve Rubber’s Qualities
Manufacturers in the petrochemical industry continually search for ways to improve rubber products for the many essential items people use everyday. Following are a few improvements chemical manufacturers have made to synthetic rubber products with various materials:
- Fluorocarbon. This material can withstand solvents because of key properties that include non-flammability, thermal and chemical stability, high rates of material compatibility, low surface tension and viscosity, and very low viscosity. Combined, these properties make fluorocarbon materials ideal for o-ring seals.
- Chloroprene. Also known as neoprene or chlor caoutchouc, chloroprene features good UV and ozone stability. It also exhibits good resistance to fuel, oil and other chemicals, making it a stable element as a seal material for o-rings and more.
A World Without Rubber Is Unimaginable Today
As long as people love their cars, shoes, toys for children and pets, and so much more, rubber is not going anywhere. Rubber will carry on for many years forward between natural sources that are available and the mass production of ever-improving synthetic rubber materials.