Rubber is a substance that is used for many different purposes. It can be found all over the world in both domestic and commercial settings. Rubber has been used for over 1000 years and came mainly from natural sources. Now rubber can be synthesized and is produced in factories and chemical plants. This has been done because we cannot produce enough natural rubber to meet the world’s needs.
Where does natural rubber come from?
Natural rubber is made from the milky white substance called latex that is produced by some trees and plants instead of sap. Over 400 different plants and trees produce latex but the latex used in natural rubber comes from the rubber tree plant (Hevea Brasiliesis). This tree is said to have come from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil originally. It was then transported to India to start the first rubber plantations. Most of the latex required for making natural rubber now comes from Asia accounting for about 95% of all natural rubber produced in the world today. The three largest producing countries are Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Latex collection is still carried out in South American countries particularly Brazil.
How is Latex made into natural rubber?
Extracting latex is very similar to extracting the sap of maple trees. Narrow slits are cut into the trunk of the rubber tree in the early morning while the temperature is still cool. The latex flows into cups attached to the tree. The latex is allowed to collect for three hours before it is quickly transported to the rubber factory for processing. This is due to the fact that latex naturally coagulates if left to sit for long periods of time. The latex is then heated and mixed with acid to form rubber curds. As the latex is heated it begins to coagulate and form solid chunks known as crude rubber. The crude rubber is then run through large, heavy rollers to remove the water. This presses the rubber into long thin sheets which is then sent to other factories to be turned into rubber products.