Chapter 3. Rubber elasticity
3.1. IntroductionNatural rubber is obtained by coagulation of a latex from a tree called
It consists predominantly of
-1,4-polyisoprene. Fossilised naturalrubber discovered in Germany in 1924 stems back about 50 million years. Columbuslearned during his second voyage to America about a game played by the natives of Haiti in which balls of an elastic ‘tree-resin’ were used. The word ‘rubber’
is derivedfrom the ability of this material to remove (rub off) marks from paper, which wasnoted by Joseph Priestley in 1770. Rubber materials are not restricted to naturalrubber. They include a great variety of synthetic polymers of similar properties. An
is a polymer that exhibits rubber elastic properties, i.e. a material that canbe stretched to several times its original length without breaking and which, uponrelease of the stress, immediately returns to its original length. Rubbers are almostelastic materials, i.e. their deformation is instantaneous and they show almost nocreep.The unique character of rubber was discovered in 1305 by John Gough whodescribed his experiments and findings as follows:‘Hold one end of the slip of rubber …. between the thumb and forefinger of eachhand; bring the middle of the piece into slight contact with the lips; …. extend theslip suddenly; and you will immediately perceive a sensation of warmth in that partof the mouth that touches it … For this resin evidently grows warmer the further itis extended; and the edges of the lips possess a higher degree of sensibility, whichenables them to discover these changes with greater facility than other parts of thebody. The increase in temperature, which is perceived upon extending a piece of Caoutchouc, may be destroyed in an instant, by permitting the slip to contractagain; which it will do quickly by virtue of its own spring, as oft as the stretchingforce ceases to act as soon as it has been fully exerted.’ Gough made the followingcomment about a second experiment: ‘If one end of a slip of Caoutchouc befastened to a rod of metal or wood, and a weight be fixed at the other extremity….; the thong will be found to become shorter with heat and longer with cold.’To convince yourself, please make the experiment. You will only need a strip of rubber, a weight and a hair-dryer. Gough presented no good explanation to theunexpected findings, i.e. that the stiffness increases with increasing temperature andthat heat is evolved during stretching. It took almost 50 years before thethermodynamics of the rubber elasticity was formulated.