Researchers develop rubber made from industrial waste

Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia have developed a new kind of rubber and catalyst that together can be used with low energy consumption to make flexible, repairable, sustainable objects – including car tyres.

The new rubber material, made from industrial waste products such as sulfur, canola cooking oil and dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) from petroleum refining, can be repaired and returned to its original strength in minutes – even at room temperature – with an amine catalyst.

According to Flinders University Associate Professor Justin Chalker, the new type of rubber can also be recycled.

“This study reveals a new concept in the repair, adhesion and recycling of sustainable rubber,” he said.

“It is exciting to see how the underlying chemistry of these materials has such wide potential in recycling, next-generation adhesives and additive manufacturing.”

Researchers from the Chalker Lab at the Flinders University Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, with University of Liverpool and University of Western Australia colleagues, say the new rubber can be used as a “latent adhesive”.

“The rubber bonds to itself when the amine catalyst is applied to the surface. The adhesion is stronger than many commercial glues,” University of Liverpool researcher Tom Hasell said.

“The polymer is also resistant to water and corrosion.”

The research findings were published this month in international journal Chemical Science.

Flinders University lead author Sam Tonkin said rubber bricks made out of the polymer can be chemically joined by applying the catalyst.

“In some cases, the amine catalyst causes the rubber to bond in just minutes, and it can be done at room temperature,” he said.

“The rubber can also be used as a latent adhesive, where it bonds to the surface of another piece of rubber when the amine catalyst is applied. Basically the rubber is not ‘sticky’ until the catalyst is applied.”

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