Chloroprene Vs. Neoprene: An In-Depth Guide to Understanding the Differences, Similarities, Benefits, and Applications

When choosing the right materials for your project, you must seek to understand each of your options comprehensively to make wise decisions. Chloroprene and neoprene are some of the most popular rubber materials used across various industries. 

Many people use the two names interchangeably. But are they the same? What should you know about the two materials? And is neoprene rubber or plastic?

In this post, we’ll dive deep into understanding the nuances of the two materials, their relationship, and their applications in diverse industries. You might want to read this guide to the end.

Understanding Chloroprene and Neoprene

Let’s look at each of these materials individually. This will help us set a solid foundation for comparing the properties and characteristics of the two materials.

What Is Chloroprene?

Chloroprene is a synthetic rubber material whose history dates back to the 1930s. It’s presented as a colorless and volatile liquid exclusively used as a monomer in the production of a synthetic rubber known as polychloroprene polymer. 

The chemical formula of chloroprene is CH2=CCI-CH=CH2.

Chloroprene is known to have robust chemical, ozone, aging, and weathering resistance. These properties make it suitable for outdoor applications. It’s also flame-resistant.

There are three essential processes used to produce chloroprene. They are chlorination, dehydrochlorination, and isomerization of part of the product stream.

But before the 1960s, manufacturers used the acetylene process to produce chloroprene. The acetylene process involved the dimerization of acetylene to produce vinyl acetylene which was later combined with hydrogen chloride

What Is Neoprene?

Neoprene, which also dates back to the 1930s, is a synthetic rubber that is a product of the polymerization of chloroprene. Its production process involves combining hydrogen, carbon, and chlorine polymers.

Due to this, neoprene is sometimes referred to as polychloroprene.

In its early days, neoprene was known as Duprene. However, it had a horrible smell and was expensive. Researchers developed new production methods and gave it a new name- Neoprene. 

The refined product became extremely successful commercially, seeing up to 300,000 tons of neoprene produced every year.

Neoprene is mainly sold in either of two ways; solid rubber or latex form.

Its popularity and diverse applications across numerous industries can be attributed to its non-toxic nature, flexibility, ability to resist extreme conditions, insulation abilities, and many other properties we’ll be looking at later.

The Relationship Between Chloroprene and Neoprene

Up to this point, you already know that chloroprene and neoprene are both synthetic rubbers. But while many people use the two names interchangeably, they’re not the same.

In simple terms, neoprene is a polymer which is made from chloroprene, which is a monomer molecule.

You can understand their relationship better by looking at chloroprene as the primary raw material that is polymerized to produce neoprene.

The free radical polymerization process involves chemically binding multiple chloroprene molecules by treating chloroprene using various catalysts and chemicals to trigger the polymerization reaction. 

This forms long chains known as polymers, that make up neoprene.

Fundamentally, chloroprene is the foundational material that goes through a chemical process to produce neoprene.

Chloroprene Neoprene
Definition A colorless and volatile liquid rubber whose formula is CH2=CCI-CH=CH2. A type of synthetic rubber made from polymerizing chloroprene
Chemical Category Monomer Polymer
Production Acetylene process or modern method of chlorination, dehydrochlorination, and isomerization of part of the product stream Free radical polymerization of chloroprene
Uses Base material used in the production of neoprene Used in the household and across diverse industries such as automotive, marine, industrial, medical, and construction sectors

 

Chloroprene Vs. Neoprene Rubber: Different Types

Based on the chloroprene vulcanization process and how many sulfur bonds are made, neoprene can present various characteristics in numerous degrees without altering its chemical structure.

Due to this, neoprene has different forms, that are based on its intended purpose. Some of the forms include:

Solid Neoprene Sheets

Solid neoprene sheets are the dense form of neoprene. While they share the same chemical composition as the other forms of neoprene, solid sheets excel when it comes to exposure to abrasive conditions.

Solid neoprene scores high on the durometer, which is the measure of a material’s toughness. This means that it also has lower compressibility.

Dense neoprene products tend to have high tensile strength. The high mechanical strength makes it a durable material.

This combination of toughness, durability, and high tensile strength makes dense neoprene sheets suitable for abrasive applications.

Due to its properties, solid neoprene products include safety clothing, such as wet suits and neoprene gloves, landfill liners, and protective equipment covers.

Foam/Sponge Neoprene

Foam or sponge neoprene has a cellular-like composition. It has a similar appearance to a household sponge and is softer compared to its solid counterpart.

Foam neoprene has air pockets that compress when external pressure is exerted on the material. This material is highly compressible and returns to its original form after being pressed.

This is the reason why this form of neoprene is highly suitable for gaskets and seals that need tight seals. Gasket and seal material made from foam neoprene stays resilient under pressure, therefore preventing leakages.

The material is also good at retaining gas.

Its structure makes it exceptional at absorbing vibrations, making it a popular choice for soundproof material for music production studios.

Chloroprene Vs. Neoprene: Advantages and Properties

Originally, neoprene was meant to serve as an oil-resistant alternative to natural rubber. Today, it’s an excellent general-purpose rubber. This is due to its great properties that make it suitable for diverse applications. 

Here are some properties and advantages of neoprene that you should know about:

Heat & Cold Resistant

Neoprene functions well with temperatures as high as 135°C (275°F). What’s stunning is that it doesn’t physically degrade at these high temperatures, unlike natural rubber. This makes neoprene suitable for applications where it’s exposed to high temperatures for long periods.

Even when degradation occurs due to heat, it doesn’t manifest itself in melting or stretching as is the case with many types of rubber. Instead, it hardens.

In the same manner, neoprene rubber is also cold-resistant. It can hold up down to -45°C (-50°F).

However, neoprene becomes increasingly stiff when operating below -17°C (-0°C). It becomes generally nonfunctional for many applications by the time it gets to -45°C (-50°F).

Weather Resistant

Neoprene has a low oxidation rate. On top of that, it withstands damage caused by ozone, weathering, and UV exposure. This makes it suitable for applications that require extended exposure to the sun and extreme weather conditions.

Works Well With Other Materials

Neoprene can be mechanically bonded with cotton. Besides, it can also be manipulated to bond with certain types of metals, such as brass, aluminum, copper, and stainless steel.

This is made possible by adding a basic bonding agent to help with the bonding.

When specific additives are used, adhesion can be induced to make neoprene adhere to materials such as acrylic and glass. 

Chemical Resistant

Neoprene demonstrates excellent resistance to a wide range of petroleum-based mixtures, such as greases, solvents, and oils. It can also withstand exposure to ethyl and methyl alcohols, mineral acids, alkalines, and some salt solutions.

This makes it ideal for use in applications where degradation resistance from chemicals is a core factor.

Impact Resistant

As we’ve already seen, neoprene has high tensile strength, toughness, and resilience. It can withstand impact, abrasion, tear, and compression.

Rubber made from neoprene absorbs shock well and protects from vibrations and sudden impact. This makes it suitable for applications that require toughness, such as industrial equipment and protective gear.

Sealing Abilities

Neoprene is one of the most significant elastomer materials used for making gaskets, seals, O-rings, and washers since it provides good sealing abilities. It can create air-tight seals that provide good insulation and prevent leakages.

Water Resistant

Is neoprene waterproof? The short answer is yes.

Neoprene is resistant to water and moisture, making it ideal for applications that require water impermeability and buoyancy, as well as moisture resistance. This is why it’s used to make wetsuits and other water-related gear.

Flame Resistant

Neoprene demonstrates a certain level of flame resistance. It burns when in direct contact with a flame, but self-extinguishes once it’s removed from the flame. It can also be produced in a fire-retardant compound with low smoke. This feature is useful in applications where fire safety is a priority.

Neoprene Vs. Chloroprene: Potential Downsides

We’ve established that neoprene has numerous desirable properties and advantages. On the other hand, it also has a few limitations and potential disadvantages.

One of its main downsides is its high cost. Neoprene is relatively expensive compared to other synthetic rubbers that also offer the same properties and advantages. This is mainly caused by its high production cost, which may affect its affordability in some uses.

Also, while neoprene is durable and long-lasting, its production and disposal processes pose certain implications to the environment. This is due to the use of certain chemicals and their non-biodegradable qualities.

Neoprene can also experience a higher compression set. Compression set is the percentage of how a certain material recovers to its original shape. Neoprene can sometimes temporarily deform for a while after being compressed for a long period. This can affect its performance when its rebound properties are needed.

Chloroprene Vs. Neoprene: Applications

Due to its many useful properties and advantages, neoprene has found its way into many industries.

Let’s look at some significant neoprene applications that you should know about:

Household Applications

You can find neoprene rubber in various day-to-day items used in the household. These items include laptop bags, mouse pads, smartphone cases, dishwashing gloves, remote controls, and some musical instruments.

Automotive Applications

One of the most prominent applications of neoprene rubber is in the automotive industry. It’s used to make gaskets, window and door seals, hose coverings, transmission belts, shock absorber seals, CVJ boots, and vibration mounts.

All these automotive parts rely on neoprene’s weather, abrasion, tear, oil, and heat-resistant abilities. Besides, neoprene’s ability to absorb noise and vibrations helps improve cars’ comfort and performance by reducing noise.

Industrial Applications

Remember, we saw that neoprene is resistant to chemicals. Due to this attribute, neoprene is highly suitable for industrial use, such as corrosion-proof coatings, and as a raw material for some adhesives.

Also, since it’s resistant to static electricity and heat, neoprene is used to make sealing gaskets that ensure a secure and leak-free connection for various engineering systems. It also boosts impact resistance for delicate industrial parts.

Marine Applications

Neoprene is water and thermal-resistant. This makes neoprene fabrics a popular choice for marine and aquatic equipment, such as wetsuits, boots, gloves, life jackets, and other protective gear for marine sports and diving. 

It’s also used in gaskets and seals found in boats, boosting reliability and performance while preventing water damage.

When making diving suits, nitrogen is added to the neoprene to boost insulation. This enhances the suits’ buoyancy, which means the diver must be weighted to prevent the suit from pulling them back to the surface.

However, since neoprene contains air pockets, its compression increases as more pressure is exerted. This means that neoprene’s efficiency in a diving suit decreases as water depth and pressure increases.

Construction Applications

Due to its excellent weather and UV-resistant properties, neoprene is used for weatherstripping applications in the construction industry. It’s a potent material when it comes to providing insulation and sealing for protection against outdoor elements.

The construction sector also relies on neoprene rubber for application in expansion joints, since it allows movement while preventing structural damage caused by thermal contraction and expansion when building infrastructure.

You’ll also find neoprene rubber in elevator astragals, washers, bridge bearing pads, and many other construction materials.

Electrical Applications

Neoprene’s static and fireproof abilities make it an excellent choice for cable insulation in the electrical industry, where it also provides protection against the weather. It’s used in light bulbs, power transformers, wires, and many other electrical components.

It’s also used to protect many electrical devices, such as laptops, due to its cushioning, sealing, and moisture-resistant abilities.

Medical Applications

During the COVID-19 pandemic, neoprene was discovered to be an effective material for face masks. Since then, many manufacturers have used neoprene to manufacture masks for protective use.

Neoprene is also used in the medical industry to make braces and supports, including elbow, knee, and wrist supports. This is due to its wearability, flexibility, and ability to maintain its original shape over time.

Safety Gear Applications

Neoprene can function in extreme temperatures while maintaining its original state, remaining flexible, and offering thermal resistance. Besides, it also has good chemical, water, and oil resistance abilities.

These properties make it an ideal choice for making protection gloves, aprons, sleeves, jackets, and other safety gear.

Defence & Aerospace Applications

Since World War II, neoprene has been used for many military functions, including tanks, truck beds, fueling stations, weapons repair, and many more. Military and aerospace industries use isolation mounts made from neoprene rubber to increase accuracy and performance.

Conclusion

We’ve established that chloroprene and neoprene are not synonymous. Their relationship comes from the fact that chloroprene is a base material used to produce neoprene. We’ve also looked at some of the neoprene’s excellent attributes that make it a first choice for many applications across diverse industries.

Now you’re well equipped to make a wise business decision when it comes to chloroprene vs neoprene rubber.

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