The term "neoprene rubber" is redundant because neoprene is a type of synthetic rubber. It was developed in the 1930s and since then has been incorporated into many products that are common in everyday life, such as wetsuits and protective gear. Neoprene has a variety of properties that make it quite useful, including being abrasion-resistant, chemical-resistant, waterproof, somewhat stretchable and buoyant.
One of the most common uses of neoprene rubber is for wetsuits. It also is used to make protective gloves and similar articles because it is resistant to many chemicals and oils. Neoprene's resistance to abrasion is why it is commonly used to make protective covers, such as those designed to help protect cellphones or laptop computers. It also is lightweight, which is advantageous in most of its uses.
In wetsuits, the neoprene traps water between the wetsuit and the wearer's skin. Body heat warms the water against the skin, which works to reduce heat loss from the body. This allows the wearer to comfortably stay in colder water for a longer time. Neoprene rubber also can be quite buoyant in the water. Many types of sports enthusiasts use neoprene wetsuits, including scuba divers, surfers and windsurfers.
Neoprene wetsuits come in a variety of thicknesses. Very thin wetsuits that are about one-16th of an inch (about 1.6 mm) are used to prevent abrasions and sunburns in tropical water. Thicker neoprene wetsuits, such as those that are 0.25 inches (about 6.4 mm) thick, are more insulating and are used in cold water. Although the black, head-to-toe wetsuits commonly seen on television are the images that many people have of neoprene wetsuits, they now come in many colors, lengths and styles.
Among the many other personal uses for neoprene are the making of products such as seat covers, ankle or knee braces, remote controls and paintball armor. Neoprene does not contain latex, but many products that are advertised as neoprene, such as gloves, braces and other items worn on the body, actually have a latex base that is covered by neoprene. These products sometimes will affect people who are allergic to latex.
There also are many industrial applications for neoprene rubber. Certain types of neoprene rubber are used in conveyor belts, hoses and seals. It also is often used in protective coverings for wiring and cables.