Crude rubber must be cured, or crosslinked, to make it a practical engineering material. The rubber industry has developed a powerful armoury of curing agents, including sulphur sources, peroxides, metal oxides, amines & phenolic resins, so choosing the correct curing system is vital if you are to obtain a material with the properties you require. However, pressure for safer and even more effective curing agents means that innovation remains at a premium. For example, ethylene thiourea, one of the most popular curing agents for chloroprene rubber, is subject to increasing suspicion as a carcinogen and teratogen. A new generation of curing agents based on carbon rather than sulphur bonds is undergoing trials and investigations have recently been reported on the functionalisation of silica filler with curing agents. Attempts are also being made to develop controllably reversible curing systems, in order to aid rubber recycling. On a more basic level, important unsolved questions remain about the exact events during curing at the molecular scale.
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