Rubber (synthetic)

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Necklace with rubber cord
MFA# 2006.551
Children's rubbers
MFA# 52.1315a


Any man-made Elastomer. The development of synthetic rubbers was stimulated when rubber imports ceased in 1941 due to Japanese occupation in southeast Asia. Within 3 years, US manufacturers had developed over nine types of elastomers. Most age better than natural rubber but are still susceptible to degradation by Ozone and ultraviolet light. All rubbers must be chemically vulcanized to form an stable product. The unsaturated materials are vulcanized with Sulfur while others are vulcanized with peroxide, metallic oxide, or diisocyanates.

Synonyms and Related Terms

synthetic rubber; caucho sintético (Esp.); caoutchouc synthétique (Fr.); gomma sintetica (It.); borracha sintética (Port.)

Examples of Synthetic Rubbers

Table of Selected polymers belonging to this polymer class (links are for CAMEO pages)

Polymer name Properties of Concern
Polybutadiene (Buna) Compounded with a wide variety of materials
Polystyrene Compounded with a wide variety of materials
Nitrile rubber (NBR) Some NBR are blended with PVC and contain chloride
Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) Tendency to crawl; Compounded with a wide variety of materials
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) Compounded with a wide variety of materials
Ethylene propylene rubber (EPR)
Ethylene propylene diene (EPDM) May be crosslinked with other products with sulfur vulcanization
Butyl rubber (Isoprene)
Neoprene (Polychloroprene) Chlorinated, may off-gas acids
Polysulfide May contain PCB’s, can cause damage to metals when in contact with stainless and carbon steels
Polyurethane (Spandex) Problematic class of materials
Silicone Rubber Off-gassing depends on the initial curing system, platinum based cures have no off-gassing; condensation cures can produce acid, neutral or basic chemicals during curing; peroxide cures can produce ketones or chlorinated aromatic chemicals as the material ages and breaks down.

Resources and Citations

  • Contribution: Molly McGrath, AIC Plastics Panel, 2020.
  • Theodore J. Reinhart, 'Glossary of Terms', Engineered Plastics, ASM International, 1988
  • M.Kaufman, The First Century of Plastics, The Plastics and Rubber Institute, London, 1963
  • Pam Hatchfield, Pollutants in the Museum Environment, Archetype Press, London, 2002

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