In a recent research, Chinese scientists created a synthetic analogue to vulcanized natural rubber. The research published in the Angewandte Chemie journal, in which they revealed their secret led to success. The material they used is durable and though just like the original. In addition, the rubber they produced is easier to recycle than the conventional rubbers.
Self-Reinforcing Effect – Makes Vulcanized Natural Rubber Tougher and Stronger
The major reason behind why the vulcanized natural rubber is tougher and stronger because of spontaneous self-reinforcing effect. This effect helps the material to stiffen under mechanical strain. This phenomenon is recognized as strain crystallization. Whereas natural rubber contains numerous elastic polymers, these polymers are processed to be used in tires. Natural rubber is widely used in the automobile industry and is used in making mattresses.
In order to achieve high stability and performance, Chinese researchers at Sichuan University in Chengdu found a new technique. They used a predetermined catalytic system based on rare-earth elements and stabilized precursors. This helped them in connecting biomolecules to these hydroxyl groups mimicking it from natural rubber. By doing this, they got a physical cross-linkage of the polymer chains.
The researchers opted to use shot polymer chains of amino acid alanine, especially of four molecules. This chain of four molecules is known as oligoalanines form of β-sheet structures, which provides the strength and thermal stability. These chains are immiscible with each other; thus, they are preferentially together which leads to the formation of cross-linkage. This cross-linkage is desired for strength that is mainly made-up of the polyisoprene chains. With this process, synthetic rubbers improve their strength without affecting their elasticity. Properties of rubber made from this process correspond with the properties of natural rubber made by a vulcanization process.