Nanotech Innovation Adds New Strength to Rubber Industry

Feb. 16, 2012
Nanotubes revolutionize the industry by increasing efficiency and productivity of rubber compounds.

After six years of research, an innovative, nano-engineered rubber technology has been launched to add new strength and conductivity to rubber compounds. The development promises dramatic impacts on efficiency, productivity, and durability in the manufacturing environment.

The new technology, called ZyMER (Zyvex Molecularly Engineered Rubber), was launched this week by Columbus, Ohio-based Zyvex Technologies. It uses a new chemical process to allow carbon nanotubes to be inserted into synthetic rubber compounds to enhance the mechanical and electrical properties of the material without sacrificing elasticity.

This innovation could mean significant improvements to the rubber-based components vital to the plant operation such as belts and gaskets, which in turn could lead to huge advances in operational efficiency, said the company. "If we... can significantly increase our customers' assembly line speed, reduce maintenance costs and increase the performance of rubber products, we can revolutionize an age-old industry," said Michael Phillips, plant manager at APV Engineered Coatings. "If production can be increased as a direct result of stronger, more conductive rubber, while enhancing the performance of the end-product, the industry is going to make monumental strides."

Mike Nemeth, director of commercial and defense applications for Zyvex Technologies, added, "When you start to engineer materials at the atomic level like we do, a whole realm of possibilities opens up." As an example, he noted that custom formulations of ZyMER additives are being applied to rubber compounds across the industry. This means, in addition to improved plant operations, ZyMER could also be a major benefit to finished products such as automotive tires. With the improved tear strength and tensile modulus offered by the nanotubes, the process will help manufacturers create tires made of lightweight materials with increased durability and performance while also helping them answer the call to "Go Green," said the company.

The possibiility such innovations is in accord with the "Life & Green Nanotechnology 10-9 Innovation" theme of 11th International Nanotechnology Exhibition & Conference, where ZyMER was announced. "Nanotechnology has the potential for making major contributions to technical innovation that will help solve environmental and energy problems," officials for the conference said. By adding strength and durability to a more environmentally-friendly synthetic rubber, ZyMER has the potential to help manufacturers across the industry create greener products and accomplish these goals.

About the Author

Travis M. Hessman | Editor-in-Chief

Travis Hessman is the editor-in-chief and senior content director for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest. He began his career as an intern at IndustryWeek in 2001 and later served as IW's technology and innovation editor. Today, he combines his experience as an educator, a writer, and a journalist to help address some of the most significant challenges in the manufacturing industry, with a particular focus on leadership, training, and the technologies of smart manufacturing.

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