Rubber in its natural form is a sticky liquid, but add crosslinking agents and filler particles and a solid elastic material can be produced. The process, however, is time and energy consuming. Now researchers from Sichuan and Harvard Universities have found that graphene oxide (GO) can both crosslink and reinforce rubber in a single easy step [Xing et al., Composites Science & Technology144 (2017) 223].
“Crosslinking and reinforcement are two most important strategies of improving the mechanical properties of rubbers,” explains Jinrong Wu of Sichuan University. “The rubber industry uses very complex crosslinking recipes and reinforcing nanoparticles, which is tedious, energy-consuming, and even polluting to the environment.”
Conventional fillers such as carbon black and silica are inert, so cannot perform any crosslinking function. Conversely, functional nanoparticles that provide crosslinking tend to be specific to certain polymers. Rubber, by contrast, is typically crosslinked via free radical reactions. An additive that could provide both reinforcement and generate free radicals to induce crosslinking would be highly useful to the rubber industry.
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