Big news from the building industry. Scientists in Australia have created a new kind of rubber material that can be recycled in an almost endless loop, which could lead to a whole array of new sustainable building materials.
The rubber polymer is made of sulfur and canola oil, and it has a unique chemical structure. The rubber doesn’t melt – instead, its sulfur bonds can be broken and reformed by applying pressure and gentle heat of about 100 °C (212 °F). This reaction is triggered while a powdered form of the polymer is in a mold. The team calls this process “reactive compression molding”.
This allows the material to be shaped into tubing, coatings, bumpers, insulation, and many other things you’d normally find made of rubber. But the important thing is that this isn’t the end of the story. Once these products have worn out or are no longer needed, they aren’t just thrown away – the rubber can be ground up into powder, placed back into a mold, and recycled into something new.
Not only does that save discarded things from going to waste after one use, but the team says that other filler materials can be mixed in with it to create new composites. And best of all, these can also be recycled down the track.
This isn’t the only novel form of rubber that the team has come up with. Just last week, some of the same researchers unveiled another new type of rubber that can heal damage at room temperature, when a catalyst is applied. Together, these kinds of advances could help make construction a more sustainable industry.