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Rubber: How is it Affected by Temperature and by Constant Us

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Patrick Fourchalk

on 3 February 2014

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Transcript of Rubber: How is it Affected by Temperature and by Constant Us

By: Patrick Fourchalk and Robert Wong
Rubber: How it is Affected by Temperature and its Value in our Daily Lives.
We conducted an experiment about how rubber bands are affected by the temperature in terms of their elasticity. Our hypothesis is that the rubber bands elasticity is increased when exposed to cold temperatures and will provide better traction (like winter tires), and when exposed to hot temperatures, the elasticity is decreased and we think it will harden. Our inspiration came from seeing a snow tire commercial on TV, then we pondered what made winter tires different from summer tires. What else do we use that has a rubber substance? We hope that after this experiment, we will discover not only how winter tires work but how essential rubber may be in our daily lives.
The Experiment
The materials we used in our experiment were:

• Water (Hot and Cold)
• A glass
• A rubber band
• A weight
• A measuring instrument
• A straight edge
• A chopstick
• A kettle to boil water
• Ice cubes
• Tape
The Experiment
We tied the rubber band to the weight and the chopstick, and the stretched rubber band is submerged into the temperature controlled water, with the chopstick placed across the top of the glass. Then we wait for a period of time, keeping the thermometer in the water to make sure that the water temperature stays the same. The results were photographed and recorded. We conducted two trials of the experiment with hot, warm, and cold water using the same type of rubber band in each trial.
The data from both trials showed that when the rubber band was exposed to the warm temperature, its length stayed the same, when it was exposed to the hottest temperature, the rubber band contracted by 1mm, and in the coldest temperature, it lengthened by 1mm, which supported our hypothesis.
There were some variables in our experiment that may have affected the results.
The temperature of the water warmed or cooled during the time the rubber band was sitting in it, which may have changed our results. If we did the experiment again, we could heat and cool the rubber bands in the air (hang it in an oven at a low temperature and in a refrigerator) to maintain a more constant temperature.
Also, the rubber bands’ difference in width (first trial’s rubber band was 2.8mm, second trial’s rubber band was 3 mm) might have altered the results, but the variation is so miniscule, and the results in each trial were consistent, it was likely an insignificant difference.
Many products that use rubber today are made of synthetic rubber for environmental and control factors, but most synthetic rubbers are made to copy the unique entropic properties of natural rubber:
Wire Insulation
Car Parts
Airplane Materials
Hosing for Heart-Lung Machines
Golf Balls
So, if more people understood the thermodynamics of rubber, would there be fewer flat tires or better golf drives? Hard to know for sure, but there are definitely now more innovations than ever using substances that mimic the unique thermodynamics of rubber.
In a recent interview, Matthew Chan, a chemical engineer at BASF, has indicated to us that BASF has developed a unique, expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) that has been used in new Adidas running shoes. This one-of-a-kind polymer used is considered superior to any running shoe in the market now, because this substance can remain flexible and durable over a wide temperature range, from -20°C to +40°C.
Not Just for Tires...
The results of our experiment were that the rubber band we hung in hot water shrank by one millimeter while the rubber band in cold water lengthened by one millimeter. This confirms that rubber becomes softer and more pliable in the cold and less pliable and stiff in warmer temperatures. The reason that winter tires do not harden in cold weather is because they are manufactured with more rubber than summer tires. They maintain their flexibility in cold conditions, getting better grip on the road on ice and snow.
Acknowledgments and References
I would like to thank Doug Fourchalk who helped us brainstorm objects made with rubber, and guided us with the experiment. Thank you to Matthew Chan, BASF’s Regulatory Compliance Officer, North America - Paper Chemicals, ED NAFTA Organic Pigments, ED Additives, ED Dimer and Resins for his time and expertise.

Entropy of Rubber Bands
Source: www.colerado.edu
A rubber band is made up of chains of atoms and molecules. When they gain kinetic energy (are heated), all the atoms and molecules get agitated and disordered, which results in the rubber band shortening. Conversely, when they get cooled, the chains of atoms and molecules lose kinetic energy, slow down, and become more aligned and stretched longer. The diagram below shows the chains of atoms and molecules when exposed to hot temperatures (left) and when it is exposed to cold temperature (right). Our experiment confirmed these properties.
The entropic properties of rubber is valuable and extraordinary. Its use in so many various products has allowed us to take this unique substance for granted.
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