Stretching Resources

Developments in synthetic rubber are just one exemplar of the evolution of innovative and versatile materials brought about by chemical engineers. From the new rubbers that helped the Allies win World War II … to the thermoplastics on the soles of athletic shoes … to the Kevlar vests that protect law enforcement and troops — chemical engineers bring the world new and improved materials, replace scarce ones, and help industry to maximize available resources.


1933 — Rayon tire cord is introduced as Cordura. The trademark may be best recognized for its later use in outdoor nylon products, such as luggage and backpacks. (E. I. DuPont)

1937 — Butyl rubber, particularly known for its impermeability, is produced by polymerizing isobutylene (98%) and isoprene (2%); used as tire inner tubes. (Standard Oil Development)

1943 — Silicone elastomers are developed to replace glass fiber containing phenolic resin; used as insulating materials for electric motors and generators. (General Electric)

1942 – 1947 — Superior emulsion-polymerized styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) produced at 5°C replaces SBR produced at 41°C, resulting in improved tires and retread compounds, and a host of industrial, military and household products. (U.S. Rubber; Goodyear; Firestone)

1964 — Thermoplastics (e.g., shoe soles) are produced by block polymerization of styrene and anionic polyisoprene polymerization in a block sequence. (Shell Chemical)