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When we think of rubber most of us have things like tires, Wellington boots, pencil erasers, garden hoses, rubber bands, or maybe balloons and stamps. Perhaps you think a little more technically and you think of things like Silicone, Butadiene, Polyurethane, or Neoprene. If you are a little technically informed you know that the rubbers around us come in hundreds of varieties, compounds, and have many more traits and uses. To make things a little more simple for the rest of us we can break down the vast and chemistry involved world of rubbers into two groups:
Natural and Synthetic
Natural rubber primarily comes as Latex from the plant Hevea brasiliensis, commonly referred to as "the rubber tree." This latex rubber was first discovered due to its properties of being soft and stringy when warm and rigid when cold. Its ability to change its density based on temperature was provided by things called polymers or elastomers. It was these polymers that allowed us to make products out of a relatively inexpensive and seemingly useless compound. It wasn't until 1839 when Charles Goodyear discovered a method of binding these polymers to one another, ultimately stabilizing the rubber's molecular structure.
The process that Mr. Goodyear discovered was called "Vulcanization" and it was revolutionary in the sense that we could finally mold and process latex to make more useful and even sturdy products which gave way to the rise of organic plastics as well as natural rubbers. While natural rubbers have many uses, primarily due to the fact that Latex is used for most "soft" rubber products that are disposable, we us far greater amounts of synthetic rubbers today.
Synthetic rubbers use similar polymers to those of natural rubber with the exception that the base chemicals for forming synthetic rubbers are derived from petroleum byproducts. As petroleum is processed specific chemicals are separated and removed selectively, this allows for very precise and relatively clean end byproducts that can be mass produced and formed into a greater number of compounds. Many of the synthetic rubbers are tailor made to fit a very specific set of desired properties. The primary one we focus on and use here at Fortier LTD is a rubber called Viton.
Viton is the brand name for a specific hexafluoropropylene elastomer that is widely used when a seal is needed in a system that houses or contains volatile or otherwise aggressively active chemicals. Some of the chemicals that Viton is well suited to be in contact with are: Gasoline, petroleum distillates, and organic acids. Viton is also a great option for high temperature applications in the range of: -15°F to +400°. The two primary reasons for Vitons resilience are the flouropolymer bonds and the high density of the compound. The density of Viton is, in some cases, nearly four times that of other common rubbers. This significantly reduces gasoline's permeability and makes Viton a fantastic rubber to use in fuel systems.