30 No. 5
Erasers, Rubber Duckies, and So Much More
Natural rubber is a fascinating polymeric material derived from the milky white latex extracted from trees of the Hevea genus. It is essentially a polymer of isoprene (2-methyl-1,3-butadiene) and its distinctive physical and chemical properties, such as elasticity, durability, and impermeability, have resulted in its widespread use in modern society. Close to 10 million metric tons of natural rubber are produced in the world every year, with applications ranging from elastic bands and tires to containers and insulators. Although natural rubber is primarily an agricultural product, a variety of synthetic rubbers are also made in a large industrial scale from petroleum feedstocks, including isoprene, butadiene, ethylene, and styrene.
The stamp illustrated here was issued on the occasion of a Natural Rubber Conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1968. It displays an appealing space-filling model of isoprene and a representation of the traditional way of collecting natural rubber latex from a tapped tree. It is remarkable that most of the natural rubber latex produced in the world today is still harvested by this centuries-old process and that approximately 70 percent of the world production comes from only three countries, namely Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
For a readable history of rubber, see: Loadman, J. Tears of the Tree; Oxford University Press, New York, 2005.
Written by Daniel Rabinovich <email@example.com>.
last modified 15 September 2008.
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