Neoprene and nitrile are two highly oil-resistant materials that hold similar chemical properties; however, their physical properties differ and dictate the applications in which they can be used. Both are extremely durable synthetic rubber materials, but due to their differences in properties, each material can be better suitable for different applications. Nitrile has better chemical properties over the chemical resistance of neoprene and is best used for applications involving large quantities of oil. Contrastingly, neoprene sheeting holds the upper hand when it comes to versatility and can be used both indoors and outdoors without the worry of environmental damage. Despite these differences, both nitrile and neoprene synthetic rubber are excellent impact-absorbing rubber variations that are resilient and long-lasting materials, ideal for heavy-duty industrial applications.
What is the Difference Between Neoprene and Nitrile?
The main difference between neoprene and nitrile rubber can be found in the chemical composition of each elastomer. When speaking of the chemical compositions of these two elastomers, “neoprene is produced by emulsion polymerization of chloroprene (2-chloro-1, 3-butadiene) [a monomer], whereas nitrile rubber is produced by emulsion polymerization of copolymers of butadiene and acrylonitrile” (differencebetween.com). Butadiene is a common chemical used in the production of synthetic rubbers due to its ability to create strong and durable elastomers. For instance, “Butadiene is used primarily as a chemical intermediate and as a monomer in the manufacture of polymers such as synthetic rubbers or elastomers, including styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), polybutadiene rubber (PBR), polychloroprene (Neoprene) and nitrile rubber (NR). However, the major use of butadiene is in the production of tires [due to its ability to enhance strength]” (americanchemistry.com). The difference in chemical compositions between the two elastomers gives them each unique physical and chemical properties that differ from the other. For instance, the chemical compounds found in neoprene synthetic rubber allow it to resist damaging UV rays while the chemical compounds within nitrile creates a highly oil-resistant material. Although both nitrile and neoprene sheeting can be used as general-purpose elastomers, they both exceed each other’s capabilities in different applications.
Difference in Physical Properties
One of the most notable differences between the physical properties of a neoprene rubber sheet and a nitrile rubber sheet is their ability to resist outdoor damaging factors. Neoprene synthetic rubber is well-equipped to handle outdoor conditions, such as UV, ozone, and oxygen. Nitrile, on the other hand, has poor resistance to ozone, weathering, and moisture (polymrdatabase.com). This is because “nitrile rubber is a copolymer of butadiene and acrylonitrile units, but the proportion of acrylonitrile is usually lower than butadiene, so [ozone] attack occurs” (wikipedia.org). Contrastingly, neoprene synthetic rubber is able to resist degradation and aging caused by UV rays and ozone. Due to its resistance to outdoor damaging factors, neoprene weatherstripping is popularly used for long-lasting sealing. For most rubbers, including nitrile, oxidation caused by exposure to ozone and oxygen can harden the material and form cracks in the rubber product or sheet. For instance, “Tiny traces of ozone in the air will attack double bonds in rubber chains, with natural rubber, polybutadiene, styrene-butadiene rubber and nitrile rubber being most sensitive to degradation. Every repeat unit in the first three materials has a double bond, so every unit can be degraded by ozone” (Wikipedia.org). Despite nitrile’s vulnerability towards ozone and UV rays, nitrile rubber has better resistance to heat than neoprene synthetic rubber. Neoprene sheeting can withstand high temperatures up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for solid neoprene and 200 degrees Fahrenheit for cellular neoprene while nitrile has an even higher working temperature range of up to 248 degrees Fahrenheit. Based on the physical properties of neoprene and nitrile rubber, neoprene synthetic rubber is a more versatile material due to its ability to resist ozone cracking.
Difference in Chemical Properties
Between the two elastomers, nitrile rubber has stronger chemical resistance properties than the chemical resistance of neoprene. Nitrile, also known as Buna-N, it best known for its superior resistance to oils. A case in point, “Unlike all other general-purpose synthetic rubbers, nitrile rubber has excellent oil and solvent resistant properties…The oil resistance can be enhanced by increasing its acrylonitrile content” (differencebetween.com). This allows nitrile rubber to be used in applications that require the use of large amounts of oil, including petroleum oil, without deteriorating or being damaged. In addition, nitrile has a high level of resistance against corrosive chemical solvents. Nitrile can stand up well against chemicals like ammonia, methyl alcohol, copper salts, detergents, mercury, potassium salts, and zinc sulfate; however, it can be damaged by certain chemicals, such as chlorinated and nitrogen-containing solvents. The chemical resistance of neoprene is high enough to resist the damaging effects of petroleum-based and nitrogen-containing solvents. Neoprene synthetic rubber is also an oil-resistant material; however, due to the higher levels of acrylonitrile content within its composition, nitrile rubber is better resistant to oil. Although neoprene synthetic rubber has high levels of resistance against oil, nitrile is the best material to used when an application involves an excessive amount of oil.
Is Neoprene Better than Nitrile?
No one material is better than the other, however, both neoprene synthetic rubber and nitrile rubber have certain qualities that supersede that of the other rubber. Neoprene synthetic rubber has better physical properties while nitrile has better chemical properties. Both rubber variations retain excellent chemical and oil-resistance properties, but nitrile’s high levels of acrylonitrile allow it to better resist oil upon contact. Although nitrile has the upper hand when it comes to oil-resistance, it falls short on versatility as it cannot be used outdoors due to its vulnerability to ozone cracking. Neoprene synthetic rubber is better resistant to the effects of ozone and oxygen, making it the better option for outdoor industrial applications, such as neoprene weatherstripping or industrial bearing pads. Despite their differences, nitrile and neoprene synthetic rubber both have excellent shock-absorbing abilities making them both resilient materials for use as industrial gaskets and protection pads where they can be exposed to harsh solvents and conditions, including oil, chemicals, and extreme heat.
Both nitrile and neoprene synthetic rubber are known for their oil-resistance; however, they each have differing chemical and physical properties that allow them to be used in different applications or environments. As synthetic elastomers nitrile and neoprene sheeting are highly durable and impact-absorbent making them ideal for use as protective seals, gaskets, and pads in industrial settings. Neoprene synthetic rubber has better physical properties allowing it to be a versatile material that can be used in both indoor and outdoor industrial settings, whereas, nitrile is highly susceptible to environmental damage, such as ozone cracking. On the other hand, a nitrile rubber sheet will be more resistant to oil than a neoprene rubber sheet due to the difference in chemical compounds within their chemical make-up. Although neoprene synthetic rubber is a more versatile material than nitrile rubber, the chemical resistance of neoprene falls short compared to those of nitrile. Nevertheless, both nitrile and neoprene synthetic rubber both retain excellent durability and shock-absorption properties making them both reliable materials for use in industrial applications.
What is the Difference Between Neoprene and Nitrile?