Elastomers & natural rubber, which is better?

October 21, 2013
Elastomers & natural rubber, which is better?

In the modern climate of people constantly worried about the impact of manufacturing, especially chemical manufacturing of industrial materials, it is becoming more likely that those who need rubber components will find themselves considering whether natural rubber would be a better choice than synthesized elastomers & rubber. What many are surprised to discover is that in virtually every aspect the synthesized option will be superior. There are several reasons for this disparity.

Natural rubber contains more impurities than synthesized rubber. This is simply a product of one being formed in nature and the other in an environmentally controlled situation. Just as flawless, colorless natural diamonds are extremely rare and flawless, colorless cubic zirconia can be made on demand, so natural rubber free from impurities found in the area where it originated is extremely rare. This purity makes the reaction of synthetic rubber components to various chemicals and other stresses completely predictable while that of natural rubber can vary widely from sample to sample.

Natural rubber is also less durable than synthetic elastomers. The synthetic rubber can be produced with more hardness than natural rubber, meaning less wear and tear from physical stresses and friction. Another advantageous possibility when formulating synthetic rubber is the addition of agents to increase its resistance to heat. This can be a very large advantage in applications where the flexible and resilient nature of rubber is needed but heat is sure to be encountered. The ability to tailor the physical characteristics of synthetic rubber can ensure that applications that utilize it will see far less frequent replacement of components.

Natural rubber is damaged easily by many solvents. For applications where the rubber is likely to incidentally or deliberately come into contact with chemicals of various types, the fact that the contact could cause natural rubber to literally melt is likely to be seen as a problem. As with heat resistance, synthetic rubbers can be formulated to be resistant to the solvent effect of a wide range of common chemicals. Again, the ability to customize the characteristics of the manufactured elastomers translates to less replacement of components made from the material.

The supply of natural rubber is limited to that which can be farmed. Synthetic rubber, on the other hand, can be created as needed. This difference in harvesting methods ensures that applications requiring rubber need not be at the mercy of weather or political conditions in the regions where it is farmed.

If there is an advantage to using natural rubber over synthetic rubber in an industrial setting, it is usually only a “feel good” placebo. In virtually every measurable area, synthetic elastomers trump natural rubber.