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What is vulcanised rubber used for?

What is vulcanised rubber used for?

From ancient Mexican civilisations to modern-day tyre manufacture, the story of vulcanised rubber stretches back thousands of years. Along the way, such notable luminaries as Charles Goodyear and Charles Macintosh played a major role in its development. Here, Martin’s Rubber gives you a fascinating insight into the discovery, production and uses of vulcanised rubber.

What is vulcanised rubber?

Vulcanisation is the process of curing elastomers. It involves the treatment of natural rubber with sulphur or other curatives (such as peroxide and metal oxides) to form cross-links between sections of a polymer chain to produce a rubberised material boasting excellent rigidity and durability.

A brief history of vulcanised rubber

Mexico’s earliest known major civilisation, the Olmecs, are thought to have combined the boiled sap of the Pará rubber tree (hevea brasiliensis) with a vine sap to create the first primitive form of vulcanised rubber. They used the resulting material to waterproof their clothes and for ritualistic ball games.

In the 1820s, Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh and English inventor Thomas Hancock refined the age-old Olmec process by dissolving natural rubber in benzene and heating it to produce the first mass-produced rubber sheeting. This gave rise to the famous “Mackintosh” waterproof fabric (constant misspelling meant that the additional ‘k’ stuck!).

This material was later refined by adding sulphur to create a more thermally stable material. A discovery that is widely credited to Charles Goodyear but patented by Macintosh, which he named “vulcanisation” after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. This essentially paved the way for the enduring Mackintosh jacket design and a slew of other useful products.

Benefits of vulcanised rubber

Vulcanisation causes rubber to shrink while still retaining its original shape. The vulcanisation process also hardens the rubber, making it less susceptible to deformation – particularly compared to non-vulcanised rubber which will deform far more quickly under stress. This hardening of the rubber also increases its tensile strength.

Further benefits of vulcanised rubber include:

  • Excellent resilience.
  • Returns to its original shape.
  • Low water absorption.
  • High resistance to oxidation and abrasion.
  • Good electrical insulator.
  • Resistant to organic solvents.

Typical vulcanised rubber uses

Vulcanised rubber is used to manufacture all sorts of products today. Perhaps the best-known and most prevalent use of vulcanised rubber is vehicle tyres, which are commonly combined with the reinforcing agent carbon black for even greater strength. More than a billion tyres are manufactured worldwide every year, making the tyre industry one of the foremost consumers of vulcanised rubber.

Other common vulcanised rubber uses include:

  • Rubber hoses
  • Shoe soles
  • Toys
  • Erasers
  • Conveyor belts
  • Shock absorbers
  • Rubber-lined tanks
  • Vibration dampers
  • Insulation

If you are interested in developing vulcanised rubber products, speak to a Martin’s Rubber technical expert today. We combine technical expertise with more than 150 years of experience in the rubber manufacturing industry to produce the highest quality rubber products available anywhere in the UK.

Contact Martin’s Rubber today on +44 (0) 23 8022 6330 or email sales@martins-rubber.co.uk

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