Graphene in traditional rubber formulations

Traditional rubber compounds using natural rubber, styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), chloroprene and acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (nitrile) are used for a diverse range of applications, from seals and gaskets to conveyor and power transmission belts.

Thermoset rubbers are vulcanised or cured to create irreversible crosslinked covalent bonds between individual polymer chains. The degree of crosslinking – and therefore the characteristics of the material – will depend on the monomer or prepolymer blend and the method and density of crosslinking.

Thermoset rubbers offer a range of properties, such as resistance to abrasion, fatigue, oils and solvents. These properties can be enhanced during manufacture by adding compounding ingredients; for example, blending a plasticiser can improve low temperature flexibility of nitrile, while pigments can be added to colour-code finished products.

The use of compounding ingredients has a long tradition and there is an established set of additives used by most rubber manufacturers. This set of ingredients has recently grown still further, with the introduction of graphene products.

Graphene has the potential to dramatically enhance the properties of thermoset rubbers. In particular, graphene can increase the ability of rubber to withstand prolonged abrasion, while enhancing its tensile and tear strength; it can also improve fire retardancy and thermal resistance.

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