What are Elastomers?

Elastomers are polymers that are having viscosity as well as elasticity and therefore are known as viscoelasticity. The molecules of elastomers held together by weak inter-molecular forces, generally they exhibit low Young’s modulus and high yield strength or high failure strain. They inherit the unique property of regaining original shape and size after being stretched to a great extent.

What are Elastomers Examples?

Following are the examples of elastomers with their applications:

  1. Natural rubber: These are used in the automotive industry and in the manufacture of medical tubes, balloons, adhesives.
  2. Polyurethanes: These are used in the textile industry for manufacturing elastic clothing like lycra.
  3. Polybutadiene: These are used for providing wear resistance in wheels of vehicles.
  4. Silicone: These are used in the manufacture of medical prostheses, lubricants as they have an excellent chemical and thermal resistance.
  5. Neoprene: These are used in the manufacture of wet-suits and in industrial belts.

What are the Properties of Elastomers?

Following are the properties of elastomers:

  • Temperature: The specific working temperature of elastomers vary depending on the factors like media compatibility, seal design, and the dynamic and static operation.
  • Low-temperature flexibility: The rate of recovery of elastomeric material can be studied by subjecting the material to low-temperature retraction.
  • Hardness: The measurement of the material’s resistance towards the deforming force for a defined length of time is done by measuring the hardness. It differs from material to material. The soft compounds deform easily and have high friction while the harder compounds have high resistance and low friction.
  • Ageing: This property helps to understand the behavior of a material when exposed to heat. If the elastomers are pushed beyond their aging resistance, they will suffer from hardening, cracking and splitting.
  • Colour: Colouring is used mainly to differentiate between the compound grades based on their usage.
  • Elongation at break: This property is used for testing the moment of rupture when the material is under tensile stress.

What are Types of Elastomers?

Following are the two types of elastomers:

  1. Saturated elastomers
  2. Unsaturated elastomers
  3. Saturated Elastomers: Sulphur vulcanization can not cure them. They showcase superior stability against oxygen, radiation, heat, and ozone. Comparably they are less reactive. Their reactivity is limited to certain circumstances and condition. Polyacrylic rubber and silicone rubber are examples of saturated elastomers.
  4. Unsaturated Elastomers: They can be cured with Sulphur vulcanization process. Butyl rubber and natural polyisoprene are examples of unsaturated elastomers.

Difference Between Elastomer And Polymer

Although elastomers are the specialized category of polynomials, They are often compared for their differences. Refer to the table below to get a clear idea about regular polymer and special elastic-polymer i.e., elastomers.

Property Elastomers Polymer
Definition It is a polymer with very weak intermolecular forces and Viscoelasticity. Thus, famously known as elastic polymers. Is a macromolecule or large molecule made up of clusters of subunits.
Physical property They inherit the unique property of elasticity. They inherit diverse properties based on the category.
Morphology They are amorphous structure They vary from crystalline form to amorphous form.
Flexibility They are elastic in nature. They are capable of configuring the right distribution of applied pressure in order to retain their original size and shape They are mostly brittle/ hard/rigid in nature except for elastomers. Application of force can result in permanent deformation

What are Elastomers Applications?

They play an essential and ubiquitous role in day to day life due to their elasticity, flexibility, insolubility and lot many prominent features. Some of their applications are listed below-

  • Motor vehicles: Some elastomers like thermoset doesn’t melt easily making it efficient in building seals, tyres various components throughout the automobile design. Especially those components which will be exposed to heat during the functioning. The material of the type polybutadiene offers extraordinary wear resistance hence they are preferable in building tyres.
  • Consumer products: This comprises the widest range of products starting from shoe sole to baby pacifiers and many more miscellaneous.
  • Constructions: Adhesives and sealants materials enfolded under elastomers, which are an unavoidable part of any constructions. Especially for filling the gaps.
  • Industrial products: Elastomers are hugely used in making industrial tools, appliances, belts, molds, lubricants, etc.
  • Wire and cable: Material needed to build wires should have high resistance to heat, easily reshaped(elongated) and provide insulation. The elastomers like neoprene are perfect for this.
  • Medical products: Medical field needs a wide range of products like prosthetics, lubricants, molds with superior class of chemical and thermal resistance. Elastomer like silicon has widely used the material to build them and many other goods.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is TPE material?
Ans: TPE stands for thermoplastic elastomers which are also known as thermoplastic rubbers. It has the properties of rubber and is recyclable.

Q2. Is natural rubber toxic?
Ans: Natural rubber is nontoxic and free of petroleum and heavy metals. It is also biodegradable and a renewable resource.

Q3. Difference between natural and synthetic rubber.
Ans: Following is the table explaining the difference between natural and synthetic rubber:

Natural rubber Synthetic rubber
It is obtained naturally from a tree called Hevea brasiliensis and is a biosynthetic polymer It is obtained under controlled conditions and is man-made polymers
cis-1, 4-isoprene are the monomers Each synthetic rubber has a different monomer
It is difficult to change the properties Depending on the application, the properties can be altered.