What is rubber?

February 21, 2022

When you think of rubber your mind most likely drifts to common products found around the home – from elastic bands to car tires. But do you know the history of this commonly found material? And do you know of its wide range of applications – all the way to mining products?

Rubber Dust Curtain

What is rubber made of?

Rubber is a polymer material designed to expand and retract to its original shape after.

Did you know rubber as we know it today was discovered by Charles Goodyear in 1834 after mixing a rubber-like preserver – and no, he was not the founder of the Goodyear Tyre Company – but it was named after him!   

Is rubber a plastic?

While plastics and rubber are both mixed from the same family of polymers, they display certain distinct differences.

Plastic is an artificial compound, whereas, depending on the type of rubber, it can be natural or synthetic.

Rubber properties

Rubber is a type of polymer. Elastomers to be exact. Elastomers give rubber its elastic properties that we know and love.

It’s elasticity is attributed to its molecular make up. The molecules that make up rubber are attached to each other, allowing them to return to their original position once the stretching or compressing force is removed. Another difference between plastic!

Rubber is also well-known for its following properties:

  • Durable
  • Thermal contraction
  • Tensile strength
  • Resilience
  • Abrasion resistance

Types of rubber

Based on their origin and compounds, rubber can be categorised into two broad types; natural and synthetic.

What is natural rubber?

Natural rubber is extracted from latex sap of a Hevea brasiliensis, commonly referred to as a rubber tree. Rubber that is chemically formed from this natural sap is referred to as ‘polyisoprene’.

rubber | Tropical Plants, Petroleum, & Natural Gas | Britannica

Did you know natural rubber can be traced back thousands of years. Civilisations like the Inca would use the latex sap to create rubber balls in ancient sport. However, back then the natural rubber would get sticky and melt as temperatures got hotter. It wasn’t until Charles Goodyear discovered rubber as we know it today.

Natural rubber is biodegradable and environmentally friendly, however, as it is extracted from a tree, it’s considered a raw material and a limited resource. Due to the demand for rubber, and the inability for many industries to source and sustain a supply of natural rubber, synthetic rubber has since gained popularity.

What is synthetic rubber

Synthetic rubber is created from polymers synthesized from petroleum by-products – essentially it is an artificial elastomer.

Types of synthetic rubber

As synthetic rubber is artificially constructed there are many types, for example:

  • EPDM
  • Nitrile
  • Butyl
  • Neoprene

What is rubber used for?

Both natural and synthetic rubber can be used to manufacture a variety of products ranging from everyday household products, to unique mining solutions.

Common products manufactured from natural rubber include; surgical gloves, car tires, and rubber boots.

Examples of synthetic rubber products include; hoses, flooring, and matting.

National Plastics & Rubber’s rubber products

National Plastics & Rubber manufacture a range of high quality rubber mining products. A few of our favourites include:

Emergency switch cover - rubber

Contact NPR today for all your rubber product requirements. Our product design team can design and develop products to suit your mining, construction, civil, and aviation needs.

National Plastics & Rubber also manufacture polyurethane products. Read more on polyurethane. 

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