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Rethinking rubber

An EU-funded initiative developed technology and techniques for better rubber-based products and their manufacture. Advances in the area may liberate the sector and result in better rubber for high-demand applications.
Rethinking rubber
Rubber is an essential material in our lives, finding its way into roofing, floors, diving suits, vehicle tires, erasers and numerous other items. Because tires account for 70 % of sales in the sector, the industry has driven companies to generally use the tire formula for mixing and processing, a factor which limits innovation.

To overcome these constraints, the EU-funded project 'Customised nanocomposites based on rubber matrices for high demand applications' (Nanorub) developed novel technology for high-performance materials based on rubber. It worked on elastomeric components based on interface-optimised nanoclay/rubber composites that could be of great benefit to industry.

Nanorub aimed to produce cost-effective prototypes for anti-vibration mounts, insulation matting, roller covering and ball joints. These moulded components were to be built in nanorubber composites. Importantly, the researchers wanted these products to surpass requirements of their intended applications and demonstrate significant versatility.

To develop the ultimate rubber products, the project team considered different proportions and types of filler used, as well as various mixing techniques and vulcanisation conditions. Nanoparticles were also incorporated into the rubber mix to avoid clustering and help bonding in the rubber matrix. The team found that introducing up to 5 % of nanoclay into the rubber mix would improve the desired characteristics. In addition, Nanorub worked on developing a novel filler to be used in rubber processing equipment at a very reasonable cost, creating rubber that is more resilient to abrasion, offers improved stiffness and is stronger.

If properly exploited, the project's findings and advances will enable the rubber industry to innovate and bring many benefits to several other industries. New, more resilient rubber products will also appear on the market.

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