Natural vs Synthetic Rubber

Natural rubber and synthetic rubber both hold an important place within the rubber industry, both being in high demand by manufacturers. The difference between natural and synthetic rubber (in terms of how they’re made and their properties) makes both types of rubber useful for different applications. In this post, we look at natural rubber vs synthetic rubber, explaining the differences and the pros and cons of both.

Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Rubber

What is Natural Rubber?

Natural rubber is typically sourced from Hevea brasiliensis, a native Brazilian plant. There are other plants which can be used as a source for natural rubber which includes the Panama rubber tree, rubber fig and common dandelion. However, Hevea brasiliensis (now found in the Far East having been introduced there late 1700s) is the favoured source for commercial use by many. Latex is obtained from the plant and that is what is used to make rubber. Natural rubber is an elastomer, meaning it is an elastic substance and can recover back to its original shape when stretched. The most common commercial use of natural rubber is in tyres, spanning across a range of different industries, including automotive and aerospace.

What is Synthetic Rubber?

Synthetic rubber can be produced artificially via polymerization of monomers into polymers. This can be done two ways, either by solution polymerization or emulsion polymerization. There are many different types of synthetic rubbers, which are made up of different monomers prior to the polymerization process. Due to the polymers being artificially produced, synthetic rubber can have a combination of different properties and therefore can be used for various applications. Application of synthetic rubber can be seen all around us; some examples include wetsuits, balloons, PPE, the soles of shoes and rubber bands.

difference-between-natural-synthetic-rubber

Natural Rubber vs Synthetic Rubber

The difference between natural and synthetic rubber can be seen in the way it is produced. This means that the properties of each are different, therefore making one more suitable for certain types of application than the other. For example, although additives can be added to natural rubber to improve its resistance to salt water, neoprene displays better resistance and so tends to be preferred for marine applications.

The following table highlights that although synthetic rubbers can be produced to give favourable properties in most aspects, natural rubber is a good ‘all-rounder’ and can be further improved by using additives.

Comparison of Properties – Natural Rubber vs Synthetic Rubber

  Natural rubber Synthetic range
Hardness available (°Shore A) 25-95 10-95
Temperature resistance (°C) -40 to 80 -70 to 180
Short-time peak temp (°C) 100 100 to 350
Tensile Strength (N/mm2) 25 8 to 30
Tensile elongation (%) 800 150 to 800
Abrasion Good Moderate to excellent
Flexibility Excellent Bad to excellent
Resistance to light Bad Bad to Excellent
Resistance to oxidising Moderate Moderate to excellent
Resistance to ozone Moderate Moderate to excellent
Resistance to wear/tear Very good Bad to excellent
Weathering effect Good Moderate to excellent
Resistance to petrol Unsuitable Unsuitable to excellent
Resistance to foodstuffs Suitable Unsuitable to excellent
Resistance to oils and greases Unsuitable Unsuitable to excellent
Resistance to water Good Unsuitable to excellent

Overall, it’s easy to see when it comes to natural vs synthetic rubber; it depends entirely on the application as to which is the best type of rubber for the job. At GMT, we have developed our own process using raw rubber and an automated mixing system, to ensure that the requirements of our customers are met. From anti-vibration mounts to resilient wheels, we always produce the highest quality anti-vibration rubber products.

Please contact us for information on any of our products. Or, check out our blog on the rubber recycling process if you’d like to find out more about rubber’s relationship with the environment.

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