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Where does Rubber come from?

Neon coloured pile of rubber bands in a variety of shapes and sizes

Manufacturing a rubber band starts with natural rubber being extracted from a tree named the ‘ Hevea brasiliensis’. Originating in the Amazon rain forests, the tree takes on estimate 5 years to grow from seeding to ripeness and has a lifespan of around 30 years.

The Paramount Place to Grow Rubber

The growth of rubber depends massively on the climate. Countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nigeria, India, China and Brazil are all key places to encourage the growth of the ‘Hevea brasiliensis’. All these countries have high temperatures, with little rainfall and low humidity.

Why does Rubber have Elasticity?

In most elastic materials, such as metals used in springs, the elastic behavior is caused by bond distortions. When force is applied, bond lengths diverge from the (minimum energy) equilibrium and strain energy is stored electrostatically. Rubber is often understood to behave in a similar way, but it turns out this is a poor description. Rubber is a curious material because, unlike metals, strain energy is stored thermally, as well as electrostatically. Stretching of a rubber band is in some ways correspondent to the compression of an ideal gas, and relaxation in equivalent to its expansion. A compressed gas also exhibits “elastic” properties, for instance inside an inflated car tire. The fact that stretching is comparable to compression may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but it makes sense if rubber is viewed as a one-dimensional gas. Stretching reduces the “space” available to each section of chain.

What is Tapping?

Rubber tapping is the process by which rubber is collected. An opening is made in the bark of a rubber tree, the fluid is then drained into a vessel. The industry of tapping is widespread in areas containing rain forest, such as Brazil or Malaysia. It is less destructive and harming to the environment and rainforest and is 100% legal. A rubber tapper must remove a thin layer of bark along a descending half spiral on the tree trunk. If done carefully and with skill, this tapping panel will give latex for upto 5 years, once done the opposite side will be tapped allowing this side to heal over. The spiral allows the latex to run down to a collecting cup.