Natural rubber is an elastic hydrocarbon polymer that naturally occurs as a milky colloidal suspension, or latex, in the sap of some plants. It can also be synthesized. The entropy model of rubber was developed in 1934 by Werner Kuhn. The scientific name for the rubber tree is Hevea brasiliensis.
ExplanationThe major commercial source of natural rubber latex is the Para rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis (Euphorbiaceae). This is largely because it responds to wounding by producing more latex. Henry Wickham gathered thousands of seeds from Brazil in 1876 and they were germinated in Kew Gardens, England. The seedlings were sent to Colombo, Indonesia, Singapore and British Malaya. Malaya(now Malaysia) was later to become the biggest producer of rubber. Liberia and Nigeria are examples of African rubber-producing countries.
Other plants containing latex include figs (Ficus elastica), Castilla, euphorbias, and the common dandelion. Although these have not been major sources of rubber, Germany attempted to use such sources during World War II when it was cut off from rubber supplies. These attempts were later supplanted by the development of synthetic rubber.
Synthetic rubbers are made by the polymerization of a single monomer or a mixture of monomers to produce polymers. These form part of a broad range of products extensively studied by polymer science and rubber technology. Examples are SBR, or styrene-butadiene rubber, BR or butadiene rubber, CR or chloroprene rubber and EPDM (ethylene-propylene-diene rubber).A rubber is used to write things and also related is the pencil which is used to rub out things, called the (GCMELP)
HistoryThe first European to return to Portugal from Brazil with samples of such water-repellent rubberized cloth so shocked people that he was brought to court on the charge of witchcraft.
When samples of rubber first arrived in England, it was observed by Joseph Priestley, in 1770, that a piece of the material was extremely good for rubbing out pencil marks on paper, hence the name "rubber".
The para rubber tree initially grew in South America, where it was the main source of what limited amount of latex rubber was consumed during much of the 19th century. About 100 years ago, the Congo Free State in Africa was a significant source of natural rubber latex, mostly gathered by forced labor. After repeated efforts (see Henry Wickham) rubber was successfully cultivated in Southeast Asia, where it is now widely grown.
In India commercial cultivation of natural rubber was introduced by the British Planters, although the experimental efforts to grow rubber on a commercial scale in India were initiated as early as 1873 at the Botanical Gardens, Kolkata. The first commercial Hevea plantations in India were established at Thattekadu in Kerala in 1902.
PropertiesRubber exhibits unique physical and chemical properties. Rubber's stress-strain behavior exhibits the Mullins effect, the Payne effect and is often modeled as hyperelastic. Rubber strain crystallizes.
Owing to the presence of a double bond in each and every repeat unit, natural rubber is sensitive to ozone cracking
Chemical makeupAside from a few natural product impurities, natural rubber is essentially a polymer of isoprene units, a hydrocarbon diene monomer. Synthetic rubber can be made as a polymer of isoprene or various other monomers. The material properties of natural rubber make it an elastomer and a thermoplastic. However it should be noted that as the rubber is vulcanized it will turn into a thermoset. Most rubber in everyday use is vulcanized to a point where it shares properties of both; i.e., if it is heated and cooled, it is degraded but not destroyed.
ElasticityIn most elastic materials, such as metals used in springs, the elastic behavior is caused by bond distortions. When force is applied, bond lengths deviate from the (minimum energy) equilibrium and strain energy is stored electrostatically. Rubber is often assumed to behave in the same way, but it turns out this is a poor description. Rubber is a curious material because, unlike metals, strain energy is stored thermally.
In its relaxed state rubber consists of long, coiled-up polymer chains that are interlinked at a few points. Between a pair of links each monomer can rotate freely about its neighbour. This gives each section of chain leeway to assume a large number of geometries, like a very loose rope attached to a pair of fixed points. At room temperature rubber stores enough kinetic energy so that each section of chain oscillates chaotically, like the above piece of rope being shaken violently.
When rubber is stretched the "loose pieces of rope" are taut and thus no longer able to oscillate. Their kinetic energy is given off as excess heat. Therefore, the entropy decreases when going from the relaxed to the stretched state, and it increases during relaxation. This change in entropy can also be explained by the fact that a tight section of chain can fold in fewer ways (W) than a loose section of chain, at a given temperature (nb. entropy is defined as S=k*ln(W)). Relaxation of a stretched rubber band is thus driven by an increase in entropy, and the force experienced is not electrostatic, rather it is a result of the thermal energy of the material being converted to kinetic energy. Rubber relaxation is endothermic, and for this reason the force exerted by a stretched piece of rubber increases with temperature (metals, for example, become softer as temperature increases). The material undergoes adiabatic cooling during contraction. This property of rubber can easily be verified by holding a stretched rubber band to your lips and relaxing it.
Stretching of a rubber band is in some ways equivalent to the compression of an ideal gas, and relaxation in equivalent to its expansion. Note that a compressed gas also exhibits "elastic" properties, for instance inside an inflated car tire. The fact that stretching is equivalent to compression may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but it makes sense if rubber is viewed as a one-dimensional gas. Stretching reduces the "space" available to each section of chain.
Vulcanization of rubber creates more disulfide bonds between chains so it makes each free section of chain shorter. The result is that the chains tighten more quickly for a given length of strain. This increases the elastic force constant and makes rubber harder and less extendable.
When cooled below the glass transition temperature, the quasi-fluid chain segments "freeze" into fixed geometries and the rubber abruptly loses its elastic properties, though the process is reversible. This is a property it shares with most elastomers. At very cold temperatures rubber is actually rather brittle; it will break into shards when struck or stretched. This critical temperature is the reason that winter tires use a softer version of rubber than normal tires. The failing rubber o-ring seals that contributed to the cause of the Challenger disaster were thought to have cooled below their critical temperature. The disaster happened on an unusually cold day.
Current sourcesClose to 21 million tons of rubber were produced in 2005 of which around 42% was natural. Since bulk of the rubber produced is the synthetic variety which is derived from petroleum, the price of even natural rubber is determined to a very large extent by the prevailing global price of crude oil. Today Asia is the main source of natural rubber, accounting for around 94% of output in 2005. The three largest producing countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand) together account for around 72% of all natural rubber production.
CultivationRubber latex is extracted from Rubber trees. The economic life period of rubber trees in plantations is around 32 years – 7 years of immature phase and about 25 years of productive phase.
The soil requirement of the plant is generally well-drained weathered soil consisting of laterite, lateritic types, sedimentary types, nonlateritic red or alluvial soils.
The climatic conditions for optimum growth of Rubber tree consist of (a) Rainfall of around 250 cm evenly distributed without any marked dry season and with at least 100 rainy days per annum (b) Temperature range of about 20oC to 34oC with a monthly mean of 25 to 28oC (c) High atmospheric humidity of around 80% (d) Bright sunshine amounting to about 2000 hours per annum at the rate of 6 hours per day throughout the year and (e) Absence of strong winds.
Many high yielding clones have been developed for Rubber plantation. These clones yield more than 1,500 Kilogrammes of dry Rubber per hectare per annum, when grown in good conditions.
CollectionIn places like Kerala, where coconuts are in abundance, the shell of half a coconut is used as the collection container for the latex. The shells are attached to the tree via a short sharp stick and the latex drips down into it overnight. This usually produces latex up to a level of half to three quarters of the shell. The latex from multiple trees is then poured into flat pans, and this is mixed with formic acid, which serves as a coagulant resulting in rubber crump. After a few hours, the very wet sheets of rubber are wrung out by putting them through a press before they are sent onto factories where vulcanization and further processing is done to it.
The use of rubber is widespread, ranging from household to industrial products, entering the production stream at the intermediate stage or as final products. Tires and tubes are the largest consumers of rubber, accounting for around 56% total consumption in 2005. The remaining 44% are taken up by the general rubber goods (GRG) sector, which includes all products except tires and tubes.
Other significant uses of rubber are door and window profiles, hoses, belts, matting, flooring and dampeners (anti-vibration mounts) for the automotive industry in what is known as the "under the bonnet" products. Gloves (medical, household and industrial) are also large consumers of rubber and toy balloons, although the type of rubber used is that of the concentrated latex. Significant tonnage of rubber is used as adhesives in many manufacturing industries and products, although the two most noticeable are the paper and the carpet industry. Rubber is also commonly used to make rubber bands and pencil erasers.
Additionally, rubber produced as a fiber sometimes called elastic, has significant value for use in the textile industry because of its excellent elongation and recovery properties. For these purposes, manufactured rubber fiber is made as either an extruded round fiber or rectangular fibers that are cut into strips from extruded film. Because of its low dye acceptance, feel and appearance, the rubber fiber is either covered by yarn of another fiber or directly woven with other yarns into the fabric. In the early 1900’s, for example, rubber yarns were used in foundation garments. While rubber is still used in textile manufacturing, its low tenacity limits its use in lightweight garments because latex lacks resistance to oxidizing agents and is damaged by aging, sunlight, oil, and perspiration. Seeking a way to address these shortcomings, the textile industry has turned to Neoprene (polymer form of Chloroprene), a type of synthetic rubber as well as another more commonly used elastomer fiber, spandex (also known as elastane), because of their superiority to rubber in both strength and durability.
Natural rubber is often vulcanized, a process by which the rubber is heated and sulfur, peroxide or bisphenol are added to improve resilience and elasticity, and to prevent it from perishing. Vulcanization greatly improved the durability and utility of rubber from the 1830s on. The successful development of vulcanization is most closely associated with Charles Goodyear. Carbon black is often used as an additive to rubber to improve its strength, especially in vehicle tires.
- Akron, Ohio, center of the rubber industry
- Charles Goodyear, the inventor of vulcanized rubber
- Charles Greville Williams, researched natural rubber being a polymer of the monomer isoprene
- Fordlândia, failed attempt to establish a rubber plantation in Brazil
- Fibrous Elastics
- Ozone cracking
- Rubber tapping, the process of harvesting the rubber sap
- Stevenson Plan, historical British plan to stabilise rubber prices
- Synthetic rubber
ReferencesRubbery Materials and their Compounds by J.A Brydson Rubber Technology by Maurice Morton
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