Everyday Science: Rubber Quiz

By: Staff
Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

The unique elasticity and durability of rubber makes it ideal for scores of important uses. Although you may be familiar with the use of rubber, how much do you know about the history and processing of this special substance?

What people are thought to be the first to use rubber?

The peoples of Mesoamerica, an ancient region of Central America and Mexico, are thought to be the first to have used this elastic chemical compound. They used rubber to make balls for a game that Christopher Columbus, and later the Spanish conquistadors, watched them play.

What is rubber produced from?

Natural rubber is made from rubber trees, and synthetic rubber is made from oil.

What famous inventor came up with vulcanization?

Charles Goodyear invented vulcanization, a process that makes rubber more durable. He mixed latex rubber with sulfur and lead oxide, then heated it. This made the rubber hard, flexible and durable.

Which of the following synthetic rubbers is commonly used in wet suits?

Neoprene is a soft, foamy, insulating rubber that's often used in wet suits. DuPont chemist Wallace Carothers first invented it by turning a polymer of chloroprene into polychloroprene in 1930.

Which continent produces the most natural rubber today?

Most natural rubber comes from Asia, thanks to Latin American-derived trees that have been transplanted there.

About how much was the synthetic rubber industry worth in 2007?

Priced at about $2,012 per ton, there was $26.2 billion to be made in the synthetic rubber market in 2007. This is a bit more than the natural rubber market, which was worth about $22.5 billion in 2007.

Which rubber-processing method involves forcing the material through a small opening before vulcanizing and curing it?

In extrusion, rubber polymers are heated and mechanically mixed in a long chamber, forced through a small opening and vulcanized or cured. This method is used to make large strands for compression molding.

How long does it take for a rubber tree to grow before it's economical to harvest the sap?

It takes about six years for a rubber tree to grow to a point at which it's economical to harvest the sap.

Which of the following is the best rubber-producing tree?

Of all of these trees, the best rubber-producing tree is H. braziliensis. It's the main source of natural rubber today.

What's the most common use for rubber today?

The most common use for rubber is in automotive tires. But pencil erasers, shoes, gloves, dental dams and condoms contain the ubiquitous substance, too.

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