By David Shaw, ERJ staff
Boston, Massachusetts -- Cabot Corp's Transfinity product will allow rubber product makers to create products with better strength, fatigue and wear properties, according to David Reynolds, business manager for the project. As a result of the new technology, he said parts can be smaller and lighter yet still offer the same or better in-service performance.
Reynolds told ERJ that Cabot is working with selected clients in the mining, military, automotive, aerospace and other fields on projects which currently use natural rubber, and has seen substantial improvements in physical properties -- especially wear life and fatigue life -- following introduction of the Transfinity materials.
Cabot said the Transfinity production process can be adapted to all aqueous latices, including nitrile, chloroprene and other materials, and is seeking development partners among companies who make synthetic latex. In addition, the process is not limited to carbon black, but can fully mix all kinds of filler -- including silica and other chemicals -- to levels of dispersion unachievable by other processes.
Reynolds said the process mixes a carbon black slurry with the latex in the liquid phase and then converts the resulting paste into solid rubber, which can then be used in standard rubber production processes. The finished material is presented in loosely compacted bales and has some key benefits
- The full structure of the carbon black grade is preserved
- The dispersion is far better than the result possible from any internal mixing process
- The molecular structure of the polymer is almost completely preserved.
- New combinations of surface and structure can be fully dispersed within the rubber; combinations which are not suitable for mixing in conventional processes
As a result, said Reynolds, compounds made from the material can offer a range of new properties not available with existing materials and processes. The company is currently focussing on components with good wear resistance and on products which need excellent fatigue performance, but has high hopes that the material will offer a wide range of improved physical properties to product makers.
Reynolds noted that the Transfinity material contains the full structure of carbon black as well as substantially undamaged polymer backbones. Excessive mixing and processing is likely to degrade these properties, so the resulting compound should be processed at a low intensity, in an effort to preserve these key properties, he noted.
Reynolds said initial cooperative development work on the new materials, described as an elastomer composite (or CEC), has focussed on tank tracks; in anti-vibration components and also tyres.
More on this story in the next issue of ERJ
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