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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… but things continue to evolve.

With the resilience of natural rubber and the flexibility of plastic, synthetic rubber affords all the benefits of its counterpart and then some!



In 1906 the 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 fulfil the growing demands of the automotive industry.

Just in the nick of time, Bayers 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 countless strings of isoprene molecules.

At that time, no one knew how to crosslink; but Hoffman decided to give it a try. With the difficulties of producing the ‘natural-rubber-molecule-isoprene’, he settled on methyl-isoprene, which has a similar structure and is a lot easier to produce.

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


World War I – II

During World War I, the synthetic rubber produced was too expensive for use. In 1927, a less costly variety was introduced; and in 1931, neoprene was made.

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-1950's, 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 natural rubber. The quantity of synthetic rubber surmounted the production of natural rubber in the early 1960's.

Present Day

Today, synthetic rubber accounts for 60% 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. In 2020, it is anticipated that the global revenues produced from the sale of synthetic rubbers are likely to rise to around £40 million.


Durable, reliable and flexible; Coruba offers synthetic rubber products that can assuredly stand the test of time. Please call 01702 811 791 with all your requests or queries.


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