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What are Elastomers?

By S. Mithra
Updated: May 17, 2024

Elastomers are a category of pliable plastic material that are good at insulating, withstanding deformation, and molding into different shapes. As a particular kind of polymer, elastomers include natural and artificial rubber. We find elastomers in a wide variety of applications, from the wheels on a skateboard and the soles of tennis shoes, to the insulation covering speaker cables and telephone lines.

Elastomers are useful and diverse substances that easily form various rubbery shapes. Many industries rely on parts made from elastomers, especially automobiles, sports, electronics, and assembly line factories. This is because these unique polymers offer many unique properties. They are easy to sculpt when they are in their softened, resinous state. Yet once they harden, they remain impervious to changes in most changes in temperature as well as stress like stretching or compressing.

Industries working with elastomers have long praised them for being very strong when struck, hard if scratched, resistant to corrosion from various chemicals, and resilient in the face of humidity or water submersion. Since they don't conduct current, they are good electronic insulators. Between different branches of wires, they are dense and protective.

Another beneficial property is that they can be "compounded" or joined with other materials to strengthen certain characteristics. Other kinds of polymers may make them less likely to soften at high temperatures or break down around ozone gas. Elastomers can easily be installed next to various other materials, such as metal, hard plastic, or different kinds of rubber, with excellent adherence.

The reason that elastomers can deform and return to their previous shape is their "crosslinked" property. Crosslinking means that different chains of polymer molecules have all been linked together, so that the object can uniformly stretch but always returns to its pre-stretching arrangement. One negative aspect of this category of plastics is that they are difficult to recycle, but luckily they last a long time without wearing down.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1400 — On May 29, 2007

In a polyurethan sink, will a surface crack cause problems?

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