It is used as a band for bundling banknotes, letters and newspapers. As a seal, it provides loss-free retention of gases and liquids, and maintains heat, cold and pressure. In engines and machines, it makes an important contribution to the transmission of forces. It protects people from pollutants and pathogens and it is the substance that makes mobility, as we know and appreciate it, possible in the first place. To put it very clearly: without rubber there would be no progress.
From his travels to the New World, Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), the renowned Italian navigator and frst-class pioneer, brought rubber from Central America with him to Europe. Because the raw rubber was sticky and not very durable, however, no great importance was attached to testing its technical usefulness.
This changed after Charles Nelson Goodyear produced natural rubber in 1839 by adding sulphur and under the influence of heat. The result was vulcanized, durable, elastic rubber, which attracted interest for many applications due to its useful properties. The burgeoning automotive industry, for example, developed an almost insatiable hunger for rubber.
Shortly before the beginning of the First World War, Germany was cut off from the supply of natural rubber. Without rubber, mobilization was unthinkable. The solution came from a laboratory at Farbenwerke in Wuppertal-Elberfeld, the parent plant of the later Bayer Group. In 1909, after years of research, the chemist Friedrich Hofmann succeeded in synthesizing methyl rubber there. Although the process proved to be unproftable, it ensured the supply of the required elastic material. In 1926 Walter Bock and Eduard Tschukur, two students of Friedrich Hofmann, finally succeeded in the industrial production of styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR). In 2012, 5.4 million tons of SBR were processed worldwide.
New compounds and additives are being developed in laboratories around the world to further improve the performance and environmental compatibility of rubber. Research is being conducted into new natural resources for the production of natural rubber that will ensure a sustainable supply even under nutrient-poor conditions. Without rubber, progress is unthinkable.
What the industry has to offer and what it can achieve will be reflected at K 2019 – concentrated along the “Rubber Road” in Hall 6. There you will meet the rubber pioneers of modern times.