Neoprene rubber sheets are considered to be a part of the synthetic rubber category due to its chemical makeup. Synthetic rubbers are generally stronger and more resilient types of rubber when compared to natural gum. Neoprene rolls were invented specifically to replace natural rubber as a stronger and more resilient alternative rubber material. Due to its chemical makeup, a neoprene rubber gasket is a popular product used in industrial applications due to its resistant to oils and chemicals. Heat resistant neoprene can also be used for high temperature applications without melting which, in turn, will create a safer work environment. Neoprene foam is also available for light to medium-duty applications where high compressibility is required. Furthermore, neoprene rubber sheets are extremely durable and versatile materials that can be used most settings and environments whether it be indoors or outdoors.
What are the Properties of Neoprene?
The properties of neoprene rubber sheets include a high tensile strength, abrasion-resistance, heat-resistance, oil-resistance, and resistance to UV, ozone, and oxygen. Also called chloroprene, a neoprene rubber sheet is made through the polymerization of butadiene and styrene (both common chemical compounds found in synthetic rubbers) which gives neoprene rolls the unique ability to resist oils, harsh chemicals, and heat. Neoprene rolls are offered in solid and foam types. Although neoprene foam is more porous than solid neoprene, it still retains excellent resistance to oils and chemicals. Solid neoprene rubber sheets may be harder; however, neoprene foam possesses similar chemical-resistance properties, but will have superior compressibility due to its porous nature.
How Strong is Neoprene?
Neoprene rubber sheets are very strong materials due to its high tensile strength which gives it excellent tear-resistance. Tensile strength “is defined as the ability of a material to resist a force that tends to pull it apart” (sciencedirect.com). Neoprene rubber sheets can be put under an extreme amount of pressure without physically failing and tearing making them ideal for industrial seals and gaskets used in chemically or physically abrasive applications. In addition, as an elastomer, neoprene rubber sheets are able to stretch to great lengths and return to its original shape without becoming permanently deformed. To better understand, an elastomer is “any rubbery material composed of long chainlike molecules, or polymers, that are capable of recovering their original shape after being stretched to great extents—hence the name elastomer, from ‘elastic polymer’” (Britannica.com). These qualities of neoprene rolls allow neoprene products to stay intact and last longer even when used in high pressure applications.
Is Neoprene Heat Resistant?
Solid neoprene rubber sheets and rolls can handle extreme heat of up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The operating temperature of neoprene foam differs from solid neoprene and is able to handle temperatures up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to their high temperature range, neoprene foam and solid neoprene rolls are ideal for industrial and electrical applications. Other materials can melt or become damaged when exposed to high temperatures, but heat resistant neoprene will not be harmed and will create a safe work environment. Malfunctions caused by melted seals or gaskets can lead to hazards in the workplace. For example, a neoprene rubber gasket or seal are most often used for industrial applications involving chemicals and/or oils. If these gaskets or seals were to break or melt, industrial workers can be exposed to toxic materials. Therefore, heat resistant neoprene is the best materials to use for industrial seals and gaskets because, rather than melting, neoprene will become stiffer when exposed to heat.
Is Neoprene Resistant to Oil?
Neoprene rubber sheets are resistant to most industrial oil compounds and is commonly used to replace natural rubber in applications involving oil and petroleum products. Due to the petrochemicals and chlorine found within neoprene’s composition, neoprene rolls are able to resist the damaging effects of industrial oils. For instance, “Polychloroprene is polyisoprene with a chlorine atom replacing the methyl group side chain. This chlorine atom is more electronegative than the methyl group and so increases the oil-resistance of the material” (sciencedirect.com). Other rubber materials, such as EPDM or natural rubber, is not resistant to oil and will deteriorate when coming into contact with oils and gases. Due to these oil-resistant properties, neoprene rubber sheets are popular materials used for oil-based industrial applications.
Can Neoprene Be Used Outdoors?
Due to its resistance to UV rays, ozone, and oxygen, neoprene rubber sheets can be used outdoors without worry of damage. Most other compounds, including natural rubber, are prone to damage resulting from exposure to UV rays, ozone, and oxygen. Furthermore, thanks to their resistance to moisture, neoprene rolls can be used and left outdoors without absorbing moisture and suffering damage. Both neoprene foam and solid neoprene rolls can be used outdoors, but only when it is closed cell neoprene foam. Open cell foam is characterized by its numerous large air pockets which makes it too porous to be used outdoors. Closed cell neoprene foam, on the other hand, has air pockets that are closely knit together to form a denser material that can withstand wet weather. In fact, due to their absorption rate of less than 5%, closed cell neoprene foam is often used for outdoor marine applications. Additionally, when rubber becomes damaged by sunlight, it loses its flexibility and the structure of the material will be weakened. Neoprene rubber sheets will resist cracking caused by direct sunlight; therefore, giving neoprene rolls a longer life in the face of outdoor environments.
How Do You Store Neoprene?
Neoprene rolls and parts should be stored in an area where ultraviolet radiation cannot reach. Neoprene rubber sheets are very durable products that can withstand most conditions, but it is still important to keep them out of direct sunlight when being stored for long periods of time. Neoprene rubber sheets, along with other rubber gaskets, must be stored in a cool and dark area where chemicals, oils, light, UV rays, and ozone cannot reach to give them longer life and prevent them from deteriorating (specializedengineering.co.uk). Although neoprene rubber is moisture-resistant, it is not 100% waterproof, especially cellular neoprene foam. Furthermore, it is best to monitor how long neoprene products are left in storage as the storage conditions play a significant role in the degradation process of neoprene rubber sheets. For instance, neoprene rubber can last in storage initially for “7 years from the date of manufacture” and “3 years from the end of the initial storage date” for extended storage (specializedengineering.co.uk). Properly storing neoprene rubber sheets and products in a cool and dry area will extend its shelf life and reduce the cost of frequent replacements.
Is Neoprene Chlorine Resistant?
Neoprene rubber sheets are not chlorine resistant and will degrade upon contact with the chemical. Although chlorine is among the chemicals found in the composition of neoprene, it is still a damaging solvent that will harm its structure. Chlorine is a chemical that is commonly found in bleach, a solvent that works to break down the bonds holding the material together. For instance, “Degradation occurred primarily when the chloramine [chlorine infused water] compound broke the elastomer’s molecular bonds and oxidized the elastomer matrix” (onlinelibrary.wiley.com). When exposed to chlorine, it will have a severe negative effect on neoprene rubber sheets and will cause a 10 to 20% volume swelling. This swelling caused by chlorine exposure will decrease neoprene’s effectiveness and reduce its hardness making it unfit for further use.
Neoprene rubber sheets are far more durable than natural gum rubber and is able wo withstand harsh solvents and conditions including oils, gases, chemicals, moisture, and outdoor environments. Made up to butadiene and styrene chemical compounds, neoprene rolls have the ability to stand up well against heat, while its chlorine content aids in oil-resistance. Due to the properties of neoprene, it is a versatile material that is highly valued in industrial settings for their excellent resistance qualities. Overall, neoprene rubber sheets and neoprene foam are reliable and versatile materials that is highly valued for their resistance properties and their ability to create a safer work environment.