Rubber is used all across the globe, and for a variety of purposes. It would be easier to list the industries that don’t take advantage of this durable material. Automobiles feature rubber parts in specific locations, but the most obvious is the car’s tires. How is rubber made and why is it so popular? Continue reading below.
Many consumers may not know this, but rubber is actually derived from a tree. South America is home to a tree called Hevea braziliensis, but the name in pop-culture is simply “the rubber tree.” These trees grow up to 120 feet tall in the wild. However, in rubber plantations, farmers are quick to ensure the tree only hits the height of 80 feet. This is because the height will ensure that the carbon is rationed throughout the tree, because it will not be able to readily absorb it from the atmosphere. Carbon is another component necessary for the manufacture of rubber.
Rubber can be made from other sources as well. The rubber tree produces what is called “natural rubber.” Synthetic rubber, the main substance that automobiles will typically employ for their tires, is made another way. It can be produced either with petroleum or natural gas.
Rubber is known for its unique attributes. Namely, the substance is elastic, tough to break, and extremely durable. This is why it is the perfect material for a car’s tires. More than half of all rubber that is produced and manufactured is done so for the sole purpose of automobile tires. The rest is used for mechanical parts, clothing, furniture, or the tires from another source, such as bicycle or airplane tires.
Before the advent of rubber, automobile manufacturers had to be creative for their tires. Creative is not always synonymous with functional, however. These early vehicles simply had wooden tires with metal strips wrapped around them. And even after rubber entered factories and labs, tires were not made from the same type of rubber that is used today. This early rubber was stiff, and nowhere near the elastic material associated with rubber.
Modern pneumatic tires feature a combination of natural and synthetic rubber. Other parts included in the rubber compound for tires include: fabric, wire, carbon black, and other chemical compounds that may differ between companies. These pneumatic tires are inflatable, as opposed to holding a solid shape.
Solid tires still have a variety of purposes, however. This include trains, lawnmowers, and wheelbarrows. They can be metal draped in rubber, or simply solid rubber compounds.
Rubber is quite an important component of modern engineering. The surface opened the doors to many new inventions, and made the automobile a safer, more consistent drive. Truly an improvement from the metal tires of yesterday.