Synthetic Rubber - Bet You Didn't Know it was a Plastic!

"Synthetic rubber" is a variation of plastic that was first created in 1910, but was not successfully manufactured for commercial uses until 1931. Today, it is a cost-effective alternative to natural rubber that is found in numerous products.

The Evolution of Synthetic Rubber

Neoprene, which was developed by DuPont, was the first successfully created synthetic rubber. Since this synthetic rubber is highly resistant to heat and to chemicals such as gasoline and oil, it is typically used in fuel hoses and to insulated machinery.

The first series of synthetic rubbers, known as Buna rubbers, were developed in 1935. It was called GR-S for Government Rubber Styrene and became the primary form of rubber used during World War II. It was particularly useful when rubber supplies throughout the world became limited and most rubber-producing regions were under Japanese control. As a result, the United States pushed for the production of GR-S and, by 1944, approximately 50 factories were manufacturing the product. Ultimately, more these factories produced more than twice the amount of rubber that was being produced before the war. As a result, the demand for natural rubber fell off significantly.

Fueling the Wave of the Future

Synthetic rubber has also had a major impact on space travel. During World War II, an asphalt fuel mix was used fuel rockets because it burned more evenly and slowly than other fuels. Following the war, researchers began experimenting with using synthetic rubber rather than asphalt in the fuel. By the 1950s, synthetic rubber based fuel was the primary means for fueling missiles. In addition to the efficiency this fuel provided, it could be cast into uniformly shaped and sized blocks with no defects. This further helped improve the efficiency of burning.

Uses of Synthetic Rubber

Aside from fueling the future of space travel, synthetic rubber has a number of uses. Perhaps the most well-known use is that of tires for all types of vehicles. When molded, synthetic rubber is also used for gaskets, mechanical seals, hoses, and mechanical belts. Synthetic rubber can also be extruded in order to create garden hoses, laboratory tubing, and inner tubes. In sheet form, synthetic rubber is used for diving suits, inflatable boats, gloves, knee high boots, sleepsacks, radar absorbent material, and protective clothing.

Synthetic rubber can also be made in a form variety. As a foam, it is used for balaclava, diveskin, wetsuits, gloves, orthopedic braces, and mousepads. Synthetic rubber also has adhesive qualities and, therefore, is used in liquid adhesive and adhesive tape.