New Innovations in the Rubber Market
For years, the rubber market has remained the same. Rubber
either consisted of natural rubber or synthetic rubber. The basic use for
rubber was as a cushion of some kind- either as solid rubber or foam rubber.
Today, that is about to change. Researchers have uncovered a
new kind of super rubber that is flexible, stretchable, and even can conduct
This rubber is carbon-based, which is what makes it
conductive. The rubber can hold up in extreme temperatures, and has a wide
potential product base. Researchers hope that the new rubber could be used for
creating flexible shoe soles, and even generating electrical power through the
conductive layer of the rubber.
This new rubber is a type of foam rubber manufactured from
viscoelastic materials and nanotube rubber. The rubber can be twisted, pulled,
pushed, scrunched, and stretched and it will always return to its original
shape. Even freezing the rubber or heating it on high heat will not change the
composition of the rubber. This gives the new material potential to be used in
space and other high-temperature applications.
The conductive nature of the rubber is hoped to one day be
able to power small objects, such as a phone or flashlight. The rubber can soak
in energy from the sun and convert it to electricity much like a solar panel.
The only drawback to this material is that it is expensive to manufacture and
is not readily available. However, as more manufacturers look into the
material, the cost will soon fall, making it accessible for all companies and
factories around the world.
Foam rubber is rubber that is manufactured with foaming agents in order
to create a flexible, air-filled product. Polyurethane is the most
common type of rubber used to fabricate foam rubber products. Foam
rubber is a very versatile product and is used in all kinds of settings.
There are two main types of foam rubber: open cell and closed cell. Open cell foam products are characterized by their interconnected networks of pores. Closed cell foam products are the opposite; their pores are not connected, which makes closed cell foam products denser. Both varieties are used in a wide range of applications. Open cell foam rubber is used in the automotive industry for seat padding and trim material. Other kinds of furniture like mattresses and pillows can also be made of open cell foam rubber. In industrial manufacturing, open cell foam rubber can be used in packaging and noise control applications. Closed cell foam rubber is also used in the automotive industry but for thicker products. Construction companies make use of closed cell foam rubber for insulation and other thermal management applications. They are also used in sporting activities as knee and elbow pads, wetsuits and gloves. In healthcare settings, they can be used as orthopedic braces, surgical scrubbers and x-ray positioning pads.
Foam rubber is manufactured through a polymerization process. At the beginning of this process, chemicals are placed into two large holding tanks. Then they are pumped into smaller, heated mixing tanks, and from there they are pumped into mixing heads which allow the blending of chemicals to occur. The manner in which the chemicals are dispensed influences the type of foam rubber formed. For example, the use of continuous dispensing helps to form low-density foams in both rigid and flexible varieties. After the mixing, the foam must be cured before it can withstand further fabrication processes. Foam rubber is typically fabricated through a specialized injection molding process. In this process, an inert gas such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide is introduced into the heated rubber material. Next, the foamable rubber composition, which now consists of a single phase polymer/gas solution, is then injected into the mold cavity; this allows for shaping of the foam into specific shapes for parts. A more recent development in foam fabrication is structural foam molding. In this process, instead of utilizing high pressure to force the foam to fill up the mold cavity, the foaming action is instead caused by an inert gas that is distributed in the raw rubber material in order to assist flow.