What is neoprene? Neoprene is an incredibly resilient synthetic elastomer with an impressive combination of different strengths. Its utility cannot be understated—especially when it comes to its importance to contemporary society. Laptop sleeves, mouse pads, and wet suits are just a few household objects that—unbeknownst to many—are made of neoprene. However, this did not happen overnight—it took time, effort, and ingenuity for neoprene to become so popular, as well as advanced. But why should you care about the history of neoprene, anyway? After all, technical knowledge about neoprene is widely accessible. And these investigations already yield you many benefits, especially if you are conducting a project involving neoprene. But, as it is often the case, exploring a topic in the context of its history can reveal connections that ahistorical analyses miss completely. In this article, we want to give our readers a holistic understanding of the history of neoprene. While doing so, we will discuss what is neoprene made out of, the neoprene manufacturing process, and characteristics of neoprene—showing you the relationship between neoprene’s history and the reasons for its current uses, qualities, and forms. To help guide you as learn more about this wonderful material, we will answer a few questions. These questions include the following:
• What is neoprene’s history?
• What is neoprene made out of?
• What is neoprene’s other name?
• What is neoprene rubber used for?
What Is Neoprene’s History?
Neoprene was invented and patented for commercial development by DuPont scientists in 1930 after Elmer Bolton, a DuPont representative, attended a lecture at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, led by Julius Nieuwland, a friar and a chemistry and botany professor. Nieuwland had been conducting research and experimentation on the chemical compound acetylene, a precursor of neoprene. Bolton saw potential in Nieuwland’s work, and soon after attending the lecture, he convinced DuPont to buy the patent rights to Nieuwland’s discoveries. DuPont worked with Nieuwland to continue honing the methods that Nieuwland pioneered. The team of researchers responsible for developing the new elastomer was led by Wallace Carothers, a DuPont scientist.
What Is Neoprene Made Out Of?
Fundamentally, neoprene rubber is made out of the polymer of chloroprene, polychloroprene. Here is how this was developed: Over the course of a year, Carother and his team discovered something remarkable. After altering the compound that Nieuwland originally worked with, acetlyne, they exposed it to hydrogen chloride gas. This process produced chloroprene, a compound essential to neoprene composition. Furthermore, Carother found that he could catalyze the polymerization of chloroprene by exposing chloroprene to—among other things—potassium persulfate, a salt and oxidant. Polymerized chloroprene is also known as polychloroprene—which, in essence, is what is neoprene. At first, it may seem daunting to explore the chemical processes that go into the formula of neoprene. But as you can see, it is not so difficult to grasp with some contextualization and storytelling—which is what we aim to give you with our historical assessment of this material.
What Is Neoprene’s Other Name?
Today, neoprene is also known as polychloroprene—named after the neoprene rubber chemical composition since neoprene is a polymer of chloroprene. But historically, neoprene’s other name was DuPrene, DuPont’s attempt at branding its newly developed material. Initially, commercializing this newfound compound was not so easy. DuPont’s original process for manufacturing polychloroprene yielded an elastomeric product that smelled awful—so much so that it curbed the neoprene material’s commercial success. This led DuPont to further refine its neoprene manufacturing process. Eventually, DuPont produced neoprene rolls with improved smells, and the product gained steady commercial traction. While doing so, in 1937, DuPont discontinued the trade name DuPrene in favor of the generic “neoprene.” This decision was based on the assumption that consumers would mistakenly label “DuPrene” as a finished product when—in reality—it was meant as a raw material for other companies to process into finished goods.
What Is Neoprene Rubber Used For?
Neoprene rubber is used for a multitude of applications across many industries. For one thing, neoprene rubber is used for automotive seals and gaskets. Neoprene rolls are the standard material for the production of seals and gaskets. Because solid neoprene rubber can withstand enormous amounts of pressure, is air-tight, and is oil- and gasoline-resistant, many businesses within the automotive industry use neoprene sheeting to produce their seals and gaskets. But, the automotive industry is not the only one that uses neoprene as a raw material for their finished goods. High-durometer neoprene pads are essential for bridge construction, as engineers utilize the neoprene compression set to stabilize bridges. Thus, neoprene pad suppliers use neoprene as the raw material for their neoprene bearing pads. Neoprene is durable and can easily be made into stripping material for indoor or outdoor purposes, too. Neoprene stripping works wonders and is used frequently today for weather-resistance and insulation purposes. You see neoprene used in this way in products such as a neoprene stripping with adhesive, a neoprene sound-insulation pad, a neoprene shock-absorber, and a neoprene helmet-liner. Neoprene is also the material of choice for companies that make wet suits. Wet suits use neoprene fabric, a material which combines the excellent qualities of neoprene sheets with the texture and moldability of fabric. Neoprene fabric is also often used in products such as mouse pads and laptop sleeves, which need to be soft, lightweight, and durable. By using neoprene fabric, these goods enjoy a combination of traits that considerably heighten their functionality. While we at Rubber-Cal do not offer neoprene fabric, it would be a travesty not to mention this material, as it is one of neoprene’s many uses—and certainly a highly recognizable one. The uses of neoprene rubber are manyfold, showcasing just how versatile this material truly is. With neoprene compounds all around us and used in so many different applications, the question is this: How did a smelly, underdeveloped material gain the level of admiration that it garners today?
Basically unchanged since 1950, this synthetic elastomer continues to be essential in the production of adhesives, sealants, power-transmission belts, hoses, and tubes. It is still one of the most popular elastomers today due to its many functional qualities and variety of uses in different applications. A neoprene roll may be one of the easiest products to purchase to fit any do-it-yourself (DIY) project. It is highly customizable, so custom neoprene products such as a custom neoprene playmat, a custom-size neoprene mat, or custom neoprene gaskets are easy to obtain. Custom neoprene manufacturing is also a service that many neoprene suppliers offer! Incredibly durable, neoprene offers good elasticity and flexibility for any corners or bends it might need to fit into for stripping or insulation purposes (adhesive-backed neoprene strips are an example). Further scientific and industrial developments in the field of neoprene production have greatly improved many aspects of this material: neoprene mechanical properties, neoprene chemical compatibility, and neoprene cost are just some of the directions in which neoprene manufacturing has advanced.
Review: What Is Neoprene?
Now, we ask you: what is neoprene? In a word, neoprene is an amazing elastomer that has come a long way since its conception by Julius Nieuwland at the University of Notre Dame in 1930. The material has gone through countless stages of trial, error, and improvement—even sporting different names along the way! Overall, neoprene is truly one of the most versatile materials available. Nowadays, there is even a new moniker for this amazing product. Amongst both laymen and experts, neoprene is known as the general-purpose rubber. Its fascinating combination of traits makes it applicable toward a host of situations. For example, in snowplows, neoprene is sometimes used for a neoprene rubber edge trim. There are even colored neoprene sheets available aside from black neoprene: red neoprene is just one of the many available color variations that neoprene distributors generally offer. As our industries and scientific understandings continue to develop, we will find new ways to use this general-purpose rubber. By now, we hope that your understanding of neoprene has greatly improved. By giving you an overarching view of the history of neoprene, it is no surprise that this material has become a mainstay item across residences and industries alike. When neoprene is needed, there is rarely a substitute: it has instantiated itself as an irreplaceable member amongst the pantheon of elastomers. The reasons are clear, and we can happily say that neoprene’s fame is well-earned.
What is Neoprene? Understanding Neoprene Through Its History