What makes neoprene such a popular synthetic rubber?
From the material used in leggings to the coating on your exercise weights, you can come across neoprene every day. But what makes this synthetic rubber so versatile and what industries have recognized its worth? In the following, we’re going to look into neoprene in detail.
Neoprene was the first synthetic rubber, invented in 1930 by DuPont company scientists, in response to the rising demand for natural rubber. Since natural rubber supplies failed to meet demand, scientists needed to come up with an alternative. Today around 300 000 tons of neoprene are produced globally.
What is neoprene?
Neoprene, also known as polychloroprene, an organic compound, is mainly composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms. It’s produced by polymerization, aka. linking together many smaller chloroprene molecules into long chains.
The end result is more resistant to waters, oils, solvents and heat than natural rubber, so it became an essential technology in the second world war. Actually, neoprene only got widespread in commercial use when the war had finally been over.
Properties made to last
The DuPont scientists have quickly recognized that this synthetic rubber resists degradation more than natural rubber. It’s very tolerant to extreme conditions such as heat since its burn point is at 260 °C. Its insulation properties are similar to those of rubber and solid plastic.
Neoprene foam comes in two forms: closed-cell or open-cell. While the open-cell form is water-proof, resistant to water, weather and ozone, the open-cell form is better for insulations since it is breathable. It also offers great protection against vibration and abrasion resistance.
Although Neoprene was designed for its various oil and chemical resistant properties, Neoprene can also withstand burning and high temperatures. Neoprene is rated for operating temperatures up to 200°F, although it may stiffen. Neoprene does not begin burning until its temperature reaches 500°F. You can find Neoprene in fire-resistant applications such as fire door seals and firemen suspenders.
Hardness, Shore A
Tensile failure stress, ultimate
500 – 3000 PSI
Max. elongation after fracture in %
1,23 g/cm3 when compounded
Aging due to weather, UV light
Adhesion to metals
What makes it perfect for the automotive industry is that neoprene resists petroleum-based products, greases and oils and it also has a high tensile strength. It is an extremely chemically stable compound, withstanding solvent damage and handling adhesives well.
How are neoprene products manufactured?
Neoprene comes as a solid rubber or in latex form in rolls or sheets to the manufacturing plant, very rarely as a fabric. Then, it is moulded and extruded according to specific needs, and will take up any of these three forms:
sponge or foam.
Vulcanization will change its chemical and physical properties, making it heat resistant and more elastic. Vulcanizing neoprene creates one huge molecule out of the long chains, by bridging them with sulfur cross-links. Manufacturers can identify different types of neoprene by the number of these sulfur links and choose the one that meets the specifications for the job the most.
Where is neoprene used today?
Neoprene in the automotive industry
Due to its protective properties against vibration, you can find neoprene in the window and door seals of public transport vehicles. As for less visible applications, the automotive industry uses neoprene for CVJ boots, power transmission belts, vibration mounts, shock absorber seals, breaking and steering system components.
Neoprene in the construction industry
The construction industry benefits from the high tensile strength of the compound, as well as insulation properties and chemical stability. Similarly to the automotive industry, you can find neoprene used in window seals and gaskets, but it also does the job well for rather massive applications such as highway and bridge seals or bridge bearing pads. Apart from those, you can find neoprene as washers, bridge stay-cable anchor components, deviator pads, O-rings and elevator astragals.
Neoprene in the electronics Industry
Neoprene is a popular choice for cable jackets in the electronics industry. Jacketing in lead press cured mining cables, as well as in heavy-duty cables can be made from this synthetic silicone.
Neoprene in everyday life
You can come across neoprene on several everyday objects even in your home. It’s commonly used as laptop sleeves, tablet holders, remote controls or mouse pads. If you like watersports, most of the gear including wetsuits is made of some kind of neoprene compound. It’s bubbles in a foam form come in handy when you’re under cold water. Recently, face masks are also being manufactured from neoprene since it filters out particles smaller than coronavirus.
Neoprene rubber cleaning balls are suitable for separation equipment in dry operations. It is used for reference control of screened / transported material without interruption of operation. The use of these balls prevent the accumulation of the vibrating screen and possible “blinding”. By using screen cleaning balls, you can avoid unnecessary downtime. Technical parameters: Neoprene creates a good chemical structure and creates flexibility over a wide temperature range. Has good resistance to oils and greases. In white design suitable for sifting or inspecting food products, eg oilseeds, a.k.a. FDA approvable. Working temperature: -10 ° C / + 80 ° C Also available with metal core for easier detection.
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