What’s Styrene Butadiene Rubber?

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Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) is a versatile synthetic rubber used in a variety of products, including car tires, toys, shoe soles, and even chewing gum. It is produced through ionic polymerization or free radical polymerization and was first developed in the 1930s to stretch natural rubber resources. SBR production increased during World War II for the war effort and was later privatized in the United States. SBR is used in many predictable and surprising products, including healthcare products, surgical gloves, and moisture-resistant coatings.

Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) is one of the most versatile copolymer rubber compounds. It consists of the organic compound styrene and the chemical budatene, with the amount of budatene usually about three times higher than the amount of styrene. SBR is a stable, abrasion resistant synthetic. It is used in a wide variety of products, such as automobile tires, children’s toys, shoe soles and even chewing gum.

This compound is produced through ionic polymerization of a solution or as an emulsion through free radical polymerization. Also known as Emulsion Styrene Butadiene Rubber (E-SBR), this product was first developed in the 1930s by IG Farbenindustrie in Germany. It was created through an emulsion procedure that used polymerization as a means of producing a material that had a low reaction viscosity but had all the characteristics of natural rubber. It was very affordable and was used to stretch dwindling natural rubber resources, especially in tire manufacturing at a time when tires were made of solid rubber.

This rubber soon began to be produced in other countries, and its production in the United States was increased during World War II to help stockpile material for the war effort. Much of the manufacturing was done in US government-owned facilities, and many of the products manufactured went directly to the country’s military. It was also during this period that a cold-cured blend of styrene and butadiene was created which was superior to the old heat-cured styrene-butadiene rubber that had been produced previously. After the end of World War II, SBR plants began to be sold to private industry, and by 1955 its production in the United States had been completely privatized.

SBR can be found in many products, some of which are predictable and some which may be surprising. In addition to being used in the production of new car tires, many retreading companies use a coating of this rubber to produce the retreads. Other obvious uses include gaskets, belts and hoses for machinery, brake pads and clutch pads for vehicles.

In the home, SBR is found in toys, caulking compounds, sponges, shoe soles, and floor tiles. Some of the least anticipated uses are the production of healthcare products, surgical gloves and chewing gum. This rubber can also be used to coat the walls, ceiling and floors of rooms prone to moisture, such as cellars.

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