What is a Rubber Elastomer, and why do engineers seek it out?

Elastomers are very common and used for a wide range of purposes. There are different types of elastomers available. But what are they?

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According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, an elastomer is any rubbery material composed of long, chain-like molecules, or polymers. They can return to their original shape after being stretched.

Here are six rubber elastomers and their unique properties.

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1. Natural Rubber

This type of rubber is obtained from tree sap. It has high strength and resistance to fatigue, cutting, chipping or tearing. It is highly waterproof and can easily stick to other materials, making it simple to fabricate. Natural rubber is very versatile, and it is used in everything from medical gloves to balloons and in the automotive industry.

2. Butyl

Butyl rubber is found in products such as chewing gum, inner tubes, sealants and pond liners. It is very airtight and gas impermeable while also offering excellent flexibility. Engineers favour butyl because it is resistant to the weather and ozone and acts as a reliable vibration damper.

3. Silicone

Silicone has become a vital material in engineering, in particular, as it boasts excellent thermal stability and flexibility. It can repel water and form tight seals, giving it superior moisture-resistant properties, while it is also resistant to oxygen, sunlight and ozone. Engineers seeking rubber mouldings, such as those from https://www.meadex.co.uk/rubber-moulding/, also favour this material as it has low toxicity and low chemical reactivity.

4. Neoprene

Originally used as an oil-resistant substitute for natural rubber, this elastomer is now prized for its own benefits. As well as boasting thermal, water, oil and solvent resistance, it has chemical inertness and can tolerate very high temperatures. Neoprene bonds well with many other materials, and its low oxidation rate makes it suitable for use in indoor or outdoor environments.

5. Nitrile

Although not as strong or flexible as natural rubber, nitrile is able to withstand a wide range of temperatures and is resistant to many chemicals and fuels. This elastomer is suitable for use even when temperatures drop to around -30 degrees Celsius, although special grades need to be used at such low temperatures.

6. SBR

Often used as an alternative to natural rubber as it is cheaper, SBR, or styrene butadiene rubber, bonds well with other materials and has good wear. It is strong and boasts abrasion resistance but has poor chemical resistance.

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