Natural rubber, the ingredient for pure gum rubber rolls, is a product that is used on lots of applications around us! Natural rubber properties have made for a desirable product which has many surprising uses, including the creation of gum rubber sheets which themselves can be cut, customized, and fabricated to form a large amount of specialized products. The properties of this flexible rubber are so desirable that scientists have been attempting to create them artificially for years, with many successful results that have spawned a number of synthetic rubbers. Still, once you discover all there is to know about natural rubber, you will find for yourself that there is no other substance like it, whether it is natural or man-made.
Continue Reading Below
- First used by Mesoamerican civilizations as a ball in ritualistic games and as a waterproofing material. These two uses are not so unfamiliar to the 21st century. EPDM roofing (a modern synthetic rubber variety) is a thriving modern product used in commercial and residential roofs. And bouncing rubber balls are the implements of modern sports and perhaps even more ritualistic than their Mesoamerican forefathers.
About Natural Rubber
Natural Rubber Properties
- The tree Hevea brasiliensis is indigenous to South American tropic regions such as Brazil. It was brought to Britain in 1876 by explorer Henry Wickham, and the seeds he brought over were subsequently sent to British colonies such as Malaysia and Thailand, which currently amongst the highest pure gum rubber producers in the world.
- The substance got its name in 1770 when Joseph Priestly discovered that it could “rub” away pencil markings from paper.
- In 1928, American industrialist Henry Ford attempted to secure land for the Ford Motor Company that would give it unlimited access to a source of cultivated rubber. Natural rubber had become incredibly important to the automobile industry because of its use in tires and other parts. Ultimately, the endeavor failed.
- By 1993, natural rubber made up 40% of the market for elastomers used. Considering its automotive use (i.e., tires and hose) this is a very large chunk!
How it is Made
- High tensile strength, meaning its ability to be stretched and then return to form is very high. It is an effective flexible rubber!
- Resistant to wear from damages such as cutting, tearing, and chipping.
- Only moderately resistant damage from heat, light, and the O-Zone. At other times, it can be very susceptible to these things
- Sometimes known to degrade rapidly, especially under extreme conditions.
- Natural rubber has no variation; it is all harvested and processed the same way, which will ultimately produce the same product universally.
- Has a quality known as “tack,” meaning that it adheres well to itself and to other materials.
- Non-reactive: chemically resistant to many fluids including water and weak acids.
- Excellent as an adhesive or a protective coating.
- Poor conductors of heat and are therefore excellent insulators.
- Will become brittle when it approaches freezing temperatures.
- Can undergo the process of vulcanization, meaning that chemical bonds are strengthened by sulfur.
- A latex material is obtained from the tree by making an incision in its bark. It secretes the material as a part of its natural healing process.
- After collection, the substance is treated with chemicals through emulsions to keep it from solidifying prematurely.
- Other agents are dispersed throughout to combine all substances into one homogenous state
- The mixture is rolled twice to produce a gum rubber sheet.
- After rolling, it is hung up to dry and inspected visually. Further technical testing may take place on larger plantations.
- May remain in a latex state for use as an adhesive or coating
- This flexible rubber can be vulcanized by heat treatment with sulfur to strengthen the chemical bonds. This makes for products which are produced commercially and need to eliminate any of rubber’s undesirable qualities.
- Tires and other automobile parts.
- Floors, mats, and other ground covering like yoga mats!
- Seals and gaskets to pad mechanical parts and prevent leaking of gas or liquids.
- Hosing and tube products.
- Protective gloves.
- The creation of elastic for clothing and other products.
- Adhesives and protective coatings (in latex form).
- Anti-vibration padding, soundproofing materials.
- Inner tubes and other flotation equipment.
- Squeegees and industrial wipers due its unique flexible rubber feature.
Clearly, pure gum rubber is an interesting product that has a wide array of uses, many of which come from the gum rubber sheet, and a large handful of products that require customized cutting and molding in order to suit the needs of specific applications. Natural rubber properties will ensure that it is a product which can be made to last and will continue to be desirable, even with the option of artificial materials readily available. While there are many more things to know about natural rubber, this outline will be able to provide you with the information necessary to begin your own research and help you when seeking out products made from natural rubber.