4 Effective Material Substitutes for Rubber
With the supply of natural rubber under threat due to tree pathogens the world needs some alternatives. It’s a throw up between planting more rubber trees and destroying more areas or protected rainforest and finding workable alternatives synthetically. But synthetic rubber varies in quality and application, below are today’s best alternatives.
Silicone is a synthetic substance, it is made using a process of heating sand to a temperature of 1800⁰C. This creates pure isolated Silicone that is then combined with various other chemicals to produce the rubber-like substance. This silicone can be used instead of rubber for several everyday items taking pressure off the supply.
Silicone is an effective rubber substitute because it has low toxicity levels and it’s heat resistant. This is partly why it’s used in cookware, feeding nipples and pacifiers. It is also used for industrial processes, silicone is an excellent lubricant and adhesive. It’s no surprise manufacturers turn to silicone as a rubber substitute.
One of the main complaints of synthetic rubber is that it tears too easily and isn’t heat resistance. This makes it far too ineffective for the rubber products it needs to substitute for. In the main these are latex gloves and tyres for vehicles and aircraft. What’s needed is a synthetic rubber with the same properties as natural rubber.
Nitrile comes close. It’s proper name is Nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) and it’s one of the most faithful synthetic natural rubber alternatives. Nitrile is fairly stable, like natural rubber it is therefore suitable for industrial use and has been used for hose and seal applications. It is also more resilient and flexible than other synthetic rubbers making it more effective for rubber gloves.
Vinyl is a popular and environmentally responsible alternative to rubber. You might be more familiar with this material turning on your record player rather than wearing it on your hands, but in truth it is used for both of these purposes, and more. Vinyl, also known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is made by combining ethylene and chlorine.
Vinyl is not only an effective and green alternative to rubber, it is also inexpensive. The synthetic process uses simple chemicals and can be cooked up in the lab cheaply. Vinyl can also be recycled making it more environmentally responsible. But is it any good? The answer is yes. Vinyl can be used for records, siding, flooring, and as an alternative to rubber gloves.
Neoprene is another potential alternative to rubber as the supple for natural rubber continues to diminish. It is made using a chemical process and is therefore synthetic. However, it is not as environmentally responsible as vinyl and other alternatives. Once used neoprene becomes an environmental pollutant that should be disposed of with care.
Nevertheless neoprene is an effective natural rubber replacement. The material is oil resistant, flexible, and resilient. It is often used as a substitute in wetsuits and waterproofs due to its durability. Neoprene is also used commercially in electrical insulation and orthopedic braces. It is, however, somewhat pricier than latex and becomes a pollutant after use.