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The History of Synthetic Rubber

Over the years, people have become enormously dependent on the versatility of rubber for a number of uses, and the material continues to evolve.

With the resilience of natural rubber and the flexibility of plastic, synthetic rubber affords all the benefits of its counterpart and more.


© Mulderphoto / Adobe Stock




In 1906, German company Bayer offered 20,000 gold marks for a chemist in their company to invent a rubber substitute. The results were to be delivered within three years - to counteract the depleting stocks of rubber that were insufficient to cover the growing demands of the automotive industry.

Just in the nick of time, Bayer’s chief chemist, Fritz Hoffman, succeeded in producing methyl-isoprene in 1909 - which started the development of synthetic rubber.


It wasn't until 1905 that chemists discovered that the chain molecules of this elastic material are made up of multiple strings of isoprene molecules.

At that time, no one knew how to bond one polymer to another, but Hoffman decided to try. With the difficulties of producing the natural rubber molecule isoprene, he settled on methyl-isoprene, which has a similar structure and is much easier to produce.

The world's first synthetic rubber was patented on 12 September 1909.


World War I – II

During World War I, synthetic rubber was too expensive. In 1927, a less costly variety was introduced; and in 1931, neoprene was created.

German scientists developed Buna rubber just before World War II. The importation of rubber from the East Indies was cut off during World War II, so the US began manufacturing large-scale synthetic rubber with Buna rubber as the concentration.


After the war, Caltech researchers started to investigate the use of synthetic rubbers to replace asphalt in their solid fuel rocket motors and during the mid-1950s, large missiles were being built with synthetic rubber as the base for solid fuels.

Additional improvements to the process of producing synthetic rubber continued after the war, leading to a reduction in the need for rubber. The quantity of synthetic rubber exceeded the production of natural rubber in the early 1960s.

Present Day

Today, synthetic rubber accounts for around two-thirds of the world’s overall rubber production.

Mainly used as the component for tyres on bicycles, airplanes and automobiles, synthetic rubber is also widely used as a rubber matting option and a versatile flooring solution. This year, it is anticipated that the global revenues produced from the sale of these rubbers are likely to rise to around £40 million.

Durable, reliable and flexible, Coruba offers synthetic rubber products that can stand the test of time. Please contact us with all your requests or queries.

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