What is Natural Rubber?
There are many types of rubber, but they can all be simplified into two categories: natural rubber and synthetic rubber. Natural rubber comes from the hevea tree, also known as the Pará rubber tree or simply the rubber tree, and has been used by people to make rubber since the 1800s. Over time, as demand for rubber grew, and as applications and requirements became more complex, synthetic rubbers were developed. Despite the introduction and increased popularity of specialized synthetic rubbers, natural rubber remains a commonly used material across many industries and applications. This is due to its durability, low cost, and resistance to ozone, sunlight, water, and a variety of other chemicals.
Natural Rubber Properties
There are many advantages of natural rubber that make it a common choice for a variety of applications. As with any other type of rubber, there are some disadvantages as well. Be sure to understand all of the pros and cons of natural rubber before deciding to use it for your specific application.
Natural rubber is durable, abrasion resistant, vibration dampening, and costs less than many alternative polymers. Its great tensile strength and elongation make it an extremely tough and resilient material. It has a great compression set as well which lends itself to be useful in dynamic engineering applications such as anti-vibration mounts, bumpers, dog toys, bushings, and more. It has some resistance to sunlight, weather, oils, gasoline, greases, solvents, petroleum oils, animal and vegetable oils, silicone oil, refrigerants, ammonia, carbon dioxide, water, and steam but oftentimes a synthetic material is better suited to resist these conditions.
The natural rubber also has a wide temperature operating range and is resistant to cold temperatures. It is able to withstand temperatures as low as -50°F(-46°C).
Like any other polymer, natural rubber has some disadvantages as well. It does not have very strong heat resistance and is only able to withstand temperatures as high as 180° F (82° C). Due to the presence of double bonds on the backbone of the polymer, natural rubber is susceptible to being attacked by ozone. Over time, when it is exposed to stresses such as ozone or oil-based liquids, it will degrade and have a reduction in tensile strength, elongation, and other physical properties. Lastly, while the cost is often low, the price of natural rubber can fluctuate more than many other elastomers due to the collection and manufacturing process.
Common Applications of Natural Rubber
Natural rubber is one of the most frequently used rubbers, with many applications across a range of industries. Common applications are refrigeration seals, Freon/air conditioning, motor mounts, engine coolants, petroleum and chemical tank linings, automotive gaskets and seals, anti-vibration mounts, and weather stripping. Other examples of natural rubber applications include:
- Automotive. Natural rubber is used together with synthetic polymers in tires for cars, buses, and even airplanes. Its durability and abrasion resistance are the main qualities that help tires last for a long time. Natural rubber is also used for many other automotive parts, such as brake pads, airbags, and window seals.
- Dog toys. Natural rubber is a great choice for chew toys both because it is non-toxic, which is important in case it is ingested, and because it is incredibly abrasion resistant, meaning it can last a long time despite constantly being chewed on.
- Clothing. Natural rubber is frequently used in clothing, such as shorts and wetsuits, in the form of elastic, due to its ability to be stretchy.
- Flooring. Many commercial venues and public spaces, such as gyms, commercial kitchens, and playgrounds, use rubber flooring due to its durability. Natural rubber can last a long time, while also providing a surface that is easy to clean and maintain.
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Natural rubber is the original rubber and is still one of the most commonly used polymers across many industries. Contact us to see how we can help you choose the best possible rubber for your application.