On this day in science history: the first rubberised asphalt road surface was applied

In 1948, the first rubberised asphalt road surface in the U.S. was applied to 6,217-ft of Exchange Street in Akron, Ohio, a city that was home to a large rubber industry. The paving mixture contained 7 to 11 pounds of crumbled synthetic rubber per ton of asphalt. This full-scale use followed a test made on a small section resurfaced in 1947. Goodyear President Paul W. Litchfield proposed the paving material – and donated the rubber – to the city after he had seen its use in Holland, where it had been used since the 1930s and was claimed to be more durable, waterproof and safer in extremes of weather. However, by 1959, wear was judged to be no better than less expensive asphalt alone, and rubber additive is no longer used.

A synthetic rubber is any artificial elastomer. These are mainly polymers synthesised from petroleum by products. About 15 billion kilograms (5.3×1011 oz) of rubbers are produced annually, and of that amount two thirds are synthetic. Global revenues generated with synthetic rubbers are likely to rise to approximately US$56 billion in 2020. Synthetic rubber, like natural rubber, has uses in the automotive industry for tires, door and window profiles, hoses, belts, matting, and flooring.

Chemical structure of cis-polyisoprene, the main constituent of natural rubber.By Smokefoot (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://ift.tt/HKkdTz)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Natural rubber, coming from latex of Hevea brasiliensis, is mainly poly-cis-isoprene containing traces of impurities like protein, dirt etc. Although it exhibits many excellent properties in terms of mechanical performance, natural rubber is often inferior to certain synthetic rubbers, especially with respect to its thermal stability and its compatibility with petroleum products.

Synthetic rubber is made by the polymerization of a variety of petroleum-based precursors called monomers. The most prevalent synthetic rubbers are styrene-butadiene rubbers (SBR) derived from the copolymerization of styrene and 1,3-butadiene. Other synthetic rubbers are prepared from isoprene (2-methyl-1,3-butadiene), chloroprene (2-chloro-1,3-butadiene), and isobutylene (methylpropene) with a small percentage of isoprene for cross-linking. These and other monomers can be mixed in various proportions to be copolymerized to produce products with a range of physical, mechanical, and chemical properties. The monomers can be produced pure and the addition of impurities or additives can be controlled by design to give optimal properties. Polymerization of pure monomers can be better controlled to give a desired proportion of cis and trans double bonds.

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Posted on September 7, 2016, in Useful Information. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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