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Neoprene fabric. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/neux creative

Neoprene: Definition, Composition, Types, Properties, and Applications

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
January 10, 2024
 9 min read
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Neoprene is a synthetic elastomer that’s also known as polychloroprene. It can take on forms similar to rubber, adhesives, or coatings. The application determines the macro composition of neoprene. Chemically, neoprene is made of chloroprene monomers. Chloroprene is a diene monomer — it contains two double carbon bonds. Polychloroprene is the elastic polymer chain made up of many chloroprene monomers. Neoprene rubber types include: high-density sheet, low-density foam, adhesive, and extrusion, each made with different manufacturing techniques.

Chloroprene can be manufactured either from petroleum-based stock or limestone-based stock. Neoprene rubber is chemically inert, resists gas permeation, oxidizes very slowly, and resists ultraviolet radiation. Its material applications include: industrial, marine, automotive, retail, safety equipment, and construction.

This article will define Neoprene and discuss its composition, types, properties, and applications.

What Is Neoprene?

Neoprene is an elastic polymer made of polymerized chloroprene. This synthetic rubber is made up of long chains of chloroprene monomers. Polychloroprene polymer is composed of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine, which is cross-linked to give neoprene desirable properties. Its properties include: chemical inertness, and thermal, oil, water, and solvent resistance. Neoprene undergoes vulcanization during the manufacturing process, a treatment for rubber-like compounds that improves their characteristics.

What Is the Origin of Neoprene?

Neoprene’s origin can be traced back to the Dupont™ company which invented it in 1930 and began selling it in 1931. Neoprene rubber was the first commercial synthetic elastomer. DuPont™ invented neoprene in response to rising natural rubber demand. Neoprene was first discovered by Arnold Collins, a chemist in Wallace Hume Carothers’s research group at Dupont™.

What Is the Other Term for Neoprene?

Neoprene is also known as polychloroprene. Neoprene material comes in different forms, but they’re all based on the same material base of polychloroprene. 

Is Neoprene the Same as Polyester?

No. Neoprene and polyester are not the same. Both are synthetic polymers made up of repeating chain monomers. However, polyester comprises repeating chain ester monomer groups whereas neoprene consists of repeating groups of chloroprene monomers.

What Is Neoprene Made Of?

Neoprene rubber is made up of repeating chloroprene monomer chains in a form called polychloroprene. Polychloroprene polymer morphology by molecular weight percentage composition is 54.4 % carbon, 40 % chlorine, and 5.6 % hydrogen.

How Is Neoprene Made?

Neoprene is made through the polymerization of chloroprene with the help of free-radical initiators while emulsified in water. Free-radical emulsion polymerization turns chloroprene monomers into synthetic polychloroprene polymers.

Does Neoprene contain Latex?

No, neoprene does not contain latex. Latex is a natural compound and neoprene is synthetic, so they’re completely different materials. Latex is a natural emulsion of compounds and polymers that gets released when latex-containing plants are damaged.

What Is the Color of Neoprene?

The base color of neoprene is cloudy white. Pigments are added to give the material color. As such, any color is possible. Pigments usually impart extra strength to the final neoprene rubber when cured.

What Does Neoprene Look Like?

Neoprene rubber has a smooth texture and an appearance very similar to natural rubber. Neoprene fabric has a very dense fiber appearance and the backing fiber, if any is used, also influences its appearance.

What Are the Different Types of Neoprene?

Listed below are different types of neoprene:

1. Neoprene Sponge

Neoprene sponge or foam has higher-density outer skin and a lower-density inner core than other forms. Polychloroprene foaming base is treated with components such as plasticizers or vulcanizing agents to create the neoprene sponge material. 

2. Solid Neoprene Sheet

Neoprene sheet contains high-density polychloroprene treated with vulcanizing agents to create neoprene sheets. Various types of polychloroprene sheet material can be produced through different techniques. The sheeting’s properties can be altered by adding compounds like: metal oxides to neutralize trace hydrogen chloride, gels to increase flexibility, vulcanization accelerators to reduce cure time, antioxidants to increase oxidation resistance, mineral fillers to increase mechanical properties, and plasticizers to enhance processing and improve low-temperature properties.

What Are the Properties of Neoprene?

Table 1 lists the properties of neoprene:

Table 1: Properties of Neoprene
PropertyDescription
Property
Temperature resistance
Description
Temperature resistance from -45 °C to 135 °C
Property
Overmolding
Description
Can be bonded to other materials
Property
Abrasion resistance
Description
Resists scratching
Property
Physical toughness
Description
Durable and resists degradation

What Are the Chemical Properties of Neoprene?

The chemical properties of neoprene are listed in Table 2 below:

Table 2: Chemical Properties of Neoprene
PropertyDescription
Property
Chemical
Description
Inert
Property
Water
Description
Resistant
Property
Flame
Description
Retardant
Property
Oxygen
Description
Resistant
Property
UV
Description
Resistant

What Are the Physical Properties of Neoprene?

Table 3 shows the physical properties of neoprene:

Table 3: Physical Properties of Neoprene
PropertyDescription
Property
Tensile strength, MPa
Description
13 - 18
Property
Elongation at break, %
Description
100 - 610
Property
Hardness, Shore A
Description
5 - 95
Property
Density, kg/m³
Description
1250
Property
Young’s modulus, kPa
Description
80
Property
Piosson’s ratio
Description
0.49

What Are the Applications of Neoprene?

Neoprene is a very versatile material used for many applications. Some examples are listed and discussed below:

1. Face Masks

Neoprene foam can be formed into face masks that fit perfectly by conforming to the shape of the face. Because neoprene resists gas permeation and forms a tight fit over the outer surface of the face, neoprene face masks must contain respiratory filter valves. Neoprene insulates the face, keeping the user warm. With allowance for free breathing, neoprene face masks may be used for extreme-temperature face warmers.

2. Apparel

Laminate neoprene fabric and neoprene foam apparel can take the place of several thermal layers in extremely cold temperatures. Neoprene works with other materials either by being overmolded or mechanically bonded (laminated) to form insulating fabrics. Neoprene is cold-resistant down to -45 °C.

3. Wetsuits

Because it’s such a good thermal insulator, neoprene functions as the base material for nearly all modern wetsuits. The neoprene material is elastic; it fits tightly to the outer shape of the body and flexes with body movement. It is water-, weather-, and UV-resistant, making neoprene durable. 

4. Laptop Sleeves

Neoprene sheet provides excellent protection against impact and scratching and is abrasion-resistant. The material absorbs impacts through elastic reactions. Neoprene sleeves fit tightly over laptops, keeping them compact and decreasing the possibility of snagging.  

5. Accessories

Neoprene sheets, neoprene foam, neoprene extrusions, and neoprene laminated fabrics are used in a variety of accessories. The neoprene is soft and flexible and can be manufactured into virtually any shape. Neoprene properties that are beneficial to accessories include: abrasion resistance for desk wrist support, water resistance for soft drink sleeves, good thermal insulation for coffee mug sleeves, and good chemical resistance for no-slip grip sleeves.

6. Hoses

Neoprene finds its way into hoses in extruded or laminated form. It is resistant to oils, heat, chemicals, abrasion, and gas permeation. Neoprene is durable, so it’s ideal for harsh environments such as those found in the automotive, medical, and petrochemical industries. 

7. Gaskets

Neoprene sheets are used for gaskets. With a Poisson ratio of almost 0.5, neoprene gaskets seal the space between mated surfaces perfectly. The material can be mixed with numerous compounds to tailor a gasket to specific conditions. Beneficial characteristics of neoprene that make it suitable for gaskets are elasticity and durability.

8. Drysuits

Unlike normal neoprene foam found in wetsuits, high-density neoprene is waterproof. It also has fewer air pockets, making the dry version less buoyant than wetsuit material. 

9. Elastomeric Bridge Bearing

High-density neoprene sheet is used in elastomeric bridge bearing pads. Metal plates are bonded to the pads for assembly and integration purposes. Being heat resistant, flexible, water resistant, and exhibiting good tensile strength, it allows for movement and expansion of the bridge to prevent structure damage. 

What Are the Advantages of Neoprene?

The advantages of neoprene are listed below:

  1. It consists of repeating linked synthetic chloroprene monomers. This makes it ideal for medical use.
  2. The material is elastic and flexible which makes it ideal for use in cushioning and impact protection.
  3. It resists ozone, sun, and weather, so it’s suitable for all weather conditions.
  4. The outstanding physical toughness makes it an excellent all-purpose elastomer and replacement for natural rubber.
  5. It’s chemically inert and resistant to petroleum products, solvents, methyl and ethyl alcohols, and mineral acids. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Neoprene?

The disadvantages of neoprene are:

  1. Several cheaper materials offer narrow-range characteristics similar to neoprene. 
  2. Prolonged water exposure will allow absorption of water.
  3. Though electrically insulative, neoprene is a poor choice for electric insulation because of its gradual water absorption. 
  4. Neoprene material is not resistant to oxidizing acids.
  5. Gas does not permeate neoprene, so heat builds up. It may cause sweat rashes.

Is Neoprene Hot to Wear?

Yes, neoprene feels hot to wear. Gas does not permeate neoprene, so heat is trapped along with it. This can be an advantage for thermal layers but a disadvantage in warm conditions.

Is Neoprene Safe on the Skin?

Yes, neoprene is safe on the skin. It is synthetic rubber and therefore does not contain any latex. Neoprene is also non-toxic and not considered to be carcinogenic. 

Is the Sun Bad for Neoprene?

No, the sun does not typically harm neoprene. The fabric is ozone- and UV-resistant. Neoprene degrades very slowly with extended exposure.

What Is the Difference Between Neoprene and Silicone?

Silicone, also known as polysiloxane, is a polymer made up of organic monomers. Neoprene or polychloroprene, on the other hand, is made up of synthetic monomers. Silicone is more resilient to chemical reactions and can handle more extreme temperatures than neoprene. However, silicone is also more expensive to manufacture and is thus reserved for use in high-value soft products. Silicone possesses a lower tear resistance than neoprene but is more elastic. 

To learn more, see our article on the Difference Between Neoprene and Silicone.

What Is the Difference Between Neoprene and Rubber?

The most immediate difference between neoprene and rubber is that polychloroprene is synthetic and polyisoprene occurs naturally. Neoprene rubber is more weather-resistant than natural rubber and is a far better fire retardant. 

Summary

This article presented neoprene, explained it, and discussed its various types and applications. To learn more about neoprene, contact a Xometry representative.

Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

  1. DuPont™ is a trademark of Dupont de Nemours, Inc.

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Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.