Elastomers/rubbers are strategic and enabling materials and sit within all sectors of industry. The range of applications is truly diverse. Whilst the shock absorbing qualities of rubbers lend one to think of tyres and footwear applications, they are also used in teats for babies’ bottles and solid rocket fuel.
The strategic importance of elastomers and rubbers to nearly all industry sectors in the UK is not fully appreciated. In the UK, the scale of the elastomers and rubbers industry comprises around 500 companies employing 23,000 people with a turnover in excess of £4 billion (Office of National Statistics – UK Manufacturers Sales – Rubber Products). Natural rubber, which is predominantly polyisoprene, has had over a hundred years of development, predominantly incorporating carbon black for tyres. However, synthetic elastomeric materials (elastomers) are sometimes regarded as having a rather dirty image, which was once prevalent in the traditional rubber industry.