Rubber is so wonderfully versatile that it finds its way into literally tens of thousands of different items that we use everyday. Whether it’s a wetsuit or the hose for a dishwasher, rubber is all around us. It has been in use for more than a thousand years, once only from natural sources but now also artificially made.
Synthetic rubber can be produced in chemical plants and utilise petrochemicals. One of the most common is neoprene. Another is Emulsion styrene-butadiene rubber, often used to make vehicle tyres.
Natural rubber comes from the milky liquid that oozes from some plants when you cut into them and is known as latex. You can even see this latex when you find a dandelion and pull off the stem. The milky sap will drip from the snapped stem. Of course, to make enough rubber to use, you’d need an awful lot of dandelions!
The process of gathering rubber from trees is known as rubber tapping. A V-shape is cut into the tree bark and as the latex drips out, it is collected in a cup. The natural latex is mixed with acid to cause a reaction in which the rubber particles stick together. It is pressed into sheets or slabs and dried. Find out more about Rubber Mouldings at a site like Meadex
In this state, rubber isn’t all that useful. Extra processes are required to turn it into the versatile material that we all know. It is generally warmed up, mixed with other chemicals and shaped by rollers or squeezed through tubes.