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An elastomer is a polymer with viscoelasticity (i.e., both viscosity and elasticity) and with weak intermolecular forces, generally low Young's modulus and high failure strain compared with other materials.[1] The term, a portmanteau of elastic polymer,[2] is often used interchangeably with rubber, although the latter is preferred when referring to vulcanisates.[3] Each of the monomers which link to form the polymer is usually a compound of several elements among carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and silicon. Elastomers are amorphous polymers maintained above their glass transition temperature, so that considerable molecular reconformation, without breaking of covalent bonds, is feasible. At ambient temperatures, such rubbers are thus relatively compliant (E ≈ 3 MPa) and deformable. Their primary uses are for seals, adhesives and molded flexible parts. Application areas for different types of rubber are manifold and cover segments as diverse as tires, soles for shoes, and damping and insulating elements. The importance of these rubbers can be judged from the fact that global revenues are forecast to rise to US$56 billion in 2020.[4][5]

IUPAC definition

Elastomer: Polymer that displays rubber-like elasticity.[6]

Rubber-like solids with elastic properties are called elastomers. Polymer chains are held together in these materials by relatively weak intermolecular bonds, which permit the polymers to stretch in response to macroscopic stresses.

(A) is an unstressed polymer; (B) is the same polymer under stress. When the stress is removed, it will return to the A configuration. (The dots represent cross-links)

Elastomers are usually thermosets (requiring vulcanization) but may also be thermoplastic (see thermoplastic elastomer). The long polymer chains cross-link during curing, i.e., vulcanizing. The molecular structure of elastomers can be imagined as a 'spaghetti and meatball' structure, with the meatballs signifying cross-links. The elasticity is derived from the ability of the long chains to reconfigure themselves to distribute an applied stress. The covalent cross-linkages ensure that the elastomer will return to its original configuration when the stress is removed. As a result of this extreme flexibility, elastomers can reversibly extend from 5–700%, depending on the specific material. Without the cross-linkages or with short, uneasily reconfigured chains, the applied stress would result in a permanent deformation.

Temperature effects are also present in the demonstrated elasticity of a polymer. Elastomers that have cooled to a glassy or crystalline phase will have less mobile chains, and consequentially less elasticity, than those manipulated at temperatures higher than the glass transition temperature of the polymer.


Unsaturated rubbers that can be cured by sulfur vulcanization:

(Unsaturated rubbers can also be cured by non-sulfur vulcanization if desired.)

Saturated rubbers that cannot be cured by sulfur vulcanization:

Various other types of 4S elastomers:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ De, Sadhan K. (31 December 1996). Rubber Technologist's Handbook, Volume 1 (1st ed.). Smithers Rapra Press. p. 287. ISBN 978-1859572627. Archived from the original on 2017-02-07. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  2. ^ Gent, Alan N. "Elastomer Chemical Compound". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2017-02-07. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  3. ^ Alger, Mark (21 April 1989). Polymer Science Dictionary. Springer. p. 503. ISBN 1851662200. Archived from the original on 2017-02-07. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Market Study on Synthetic Rubber". Ceresana.com. Archived from the original on 2013-06-29. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
  5. ^ "Global rubber market to generate $56000 million by 2020". British Plastics and Rubber (BP&R). Archived from the original on 2018-09-22. Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  6. ^ Alemán, J. V.; Chadwick, A. V.; He, J.; Hess, M.; Horie, K.; Jones, R. G.; Kratochvíl, P.; Meisel, I.; Mita, I.; Moad, G.; Penczek, S.; Stepto, R. F. T. (2007). "Definitions of terms relating to the structure and processing of sols, gels, networks, and inorganic–organic hybrid materials (IUPAC Recommendations 2007)" (PDF). Pure and Applied Chemistry. 79 (10): 1801–1829. doi:10.1351/pac200779101801. S2CID 97620232. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-01-06. Retrieved 2017-07-14.

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