Neoprene rubber is a black colored rubber that is used in applications where moderate levels of oil, petroleum, ozone, and weathering-resistance are needed. Neoprene elastomers are very popular due to the broad range of applications in which they can be used. Variations in this elastomer exist in the forms of solid sheet, open cell and closed cell neoprene. Each type is suited for specific applications, but they retain mostly identical chemical resistance qualities. This synthetic elastomer was the answer to society’s need for an alternative to natural rubber that could fare better against chemicals and outdoor elements.
The reason why the new neoprene elastomers attracted so much attention in the first place was due to the chemical resistance of neoprene. Around the time of its production, society was industrializing at a rapid pace. There was a need for a material that could resist the degrading effects of moderate temperatures, weathering and industrial chemicals. Natural rubber had been in short supply. When neoprene rubber came to the market, it instantly became a success.
History of Neoprene Rubber
The first appearance of neoprene rubber was in 1923, but it was not originally the neoprene material that we know of today. Julius Arthur Nieuwland, a professor of organic chemistry at Notre Dame University, polymerized acetylene gas into a new synthetic compound that resembled rubber. This attracted the attention of the chemical company DuPont. They acquired the product rights from Nieuwland, but realized it was in a crude form that was not ready for mass production. DuPont then had to refine it in order to make it available for mass production. Their efforts paid off in 1931, with the creation of the neoprene rubber that we use today, which was originally named “DuPrene”. However, later in 1937, it was renamed neoprene and the rest is history.
Open Cell Neoprene vs. Closed Cell Neoprene
In solid form, Rubber-Cal offers open cell neoprene and closed cell neoprene. They possess similar resistance properties but come with different degrees of durability. The main difference between these two forms of neoprene are their densities. Open cell neoprene is a form of neoprene sponge that is more porous making it more permeable. However, despite its composition, open cell neoprene is excellent material for sound absorption. Open cell neoprene also fares better in terms of compression. It can return to its original form better than the closed cell version. Closed cell neoprene is the exact opposite and, as its name implies, it is a more solid form of neoprene. This form of neoprene provides better strength and greater structural potency while still providing absorption if it is needed. Closed cell neoprene is also more waterproof than its open celled counterpart and is often used in marine settings.
Properties of Neoprene Material
Whether you are looking to use solid, open or closed cell neoprene, all of these neoprene rubber variations have a low oxidation rate, making them effective in outdoor use. They can stand up well to the demands of UV rays and ozone, allowing neoprene material to provide a good level of resistance to weathering. This is similar to many of the qualities of neoprene elastomers. It isn’t the best at any one thing – other materials may provide more abrasion resistance or chemical tolerance. But the strength of neoprene rubber is the variety of features it provides, making it an excellent all-rounder. Neoprene rubber is also very resistant to a variety of other petroleum-based solvents and acetic acids. This chemical resistance of neoprene is a key quality and makes this material extremely valuable. Having components made from neoprene material with these kinds of capabilities is important, especially in high-stress industrial settings with harsh conditions and chemicals, because it can slow down the wear on individual parts and save you from wasting time and money on repairs.
Does Neoprene Tear Easily?
Neoprene elastomers are commonly used in industrial settings where they face a lot of wear and tear. Because of this, a commonly asked question is: “Does neoprene tear easily?” In short, no. Neoprene elastomers are difficult to tear and will help reduce the risk of difficulties that come with repairing torn materials. Hard neoprene rubber is a stiffer and denser version of regular neoprene. In its commercial version, neoprene rubber often contains a blend of other synthetic elastomers like styrene butadiene and nitrile rubbers. This makes for a more affordable sheet rubber. Hard neoprene elastomers are an excellent choice for applications that see a high degree of physical abrasions. It normally comes with a durometer range of 65-75, meaning that it can withstand a higher degree of abuse than most other materials. A more elastic and flexible alternative is soft neoprene. Generally, it has a durometer of 40 and can be manipulated easily for more delicate projects. Despite these differences, all versions of neoprene rubber have weathering and tear resistance to make them desirable alternatives to natural rubber.
1. What is Neoprene Rubber Used For?
Neoprene material is versatile enough to be used in both industrial and commercial settings. Its strength, durability and ability to withstand chemicals make it the ideal rubber material for heavy-duty industrial settings. Additionally, its oil and moisture resistance allow neoprene to be used in less heavy-duty commercial applications in marine settings, in the food service industry and even in fashion. Neoprene is also versatile enough to be used both indoors and outdoors without being damaged by outside forces.
1(a). Industrial Applications
Neoprene rubber is a very versatile material that can be used in a great number of fields where a rubber part may be needed. The chemical resistance of neoprene, as well as its other strengths, has ensured its popularity. Neoprene rubber is great to use for industrial applications. With a high temperature range of up to 220° F, neoprene material often goes into the production of industrial seals, hoses, and gaskets. Another capability of neoprene rubber that sets it apart from other materials is that it is fire resistant. This makes neoprene material extremely valuable for use in applications such as power transformers and other electrical applications, where safety is paramount in the event of a malfunction. Neoprene elastomers also behave in a perhaps unexpected way under extreme heats, becoming hard and brittle rather than melting – the reaction you might normally expect with rubber.
1(b). Commercial Applications
Neoprene rubber also has excellent waterproof and grease/oil resistant properties and has been embraced for non-industrial commercial applications because of this. For example, it is popular for marine applications due to its resistance to water. For such applications, neoprene material comes in open cell and closed cell variations. Closed cell neoprene is highly preferred as a wetsuit material because it is dense enough to both be waterproof and to insulate the body while being soft enough to be used comfortably on the human body. The characteristic oil and chemical resistance of neoprene has also been embraced by the food service industry. Restaurant kitchens see a lot of water, oils, and greases going around. Mats and other kinds of flooring protection products made of neoprene material are highly desirable for these kinds of applications because they can resist the degrading effects of oils and greases that could otherwise damage floors. This helps keep cooking areas safe, secure, and productive. The material’s unique resistance to oils makes it ideal for use in automotive applications as well. Additionally, as time went on, neoprene elastomers’ use has expanded beyond the industrial and marine realms into more common areas. It can be used as a padding barrier in containers to allow for protection for sensitive objects. The use of neoprene has increased in the medical field in the form of orthopedic braces. Neoprene has even been used by the fashion world as an alternative to spandex.
Neoprene is among the most popular and widely used synthetic elastomers due to its all-around excellent qualities. Neoprene rubber is highly sought after to guard against high temperatures, liquids, chemicals, and UV rays. It can be found in different versions for different kinds of uses. One could use hard neoprene for heavy industrial projects, or they can use closed cell neoprene for making a wetsuit. Regardless of the application, the possibilities are great with this synthetic rubber.