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What is the history and origin of Neoprene?

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Around the first few decades of the 20th century, there was a huge global rubber shortage in industries of western nations. The demand for natural rubber was so much that the prices of natural rubber started to rise. There was an urgent necessity to substitute for natural rubber. This is when American companies like DuPont started to depend on leading universities of that time like hawks to find a synthetic that had similar properties.

At that time DuPont appointed Fr Julius Arthur Nieuwland, a chemistry professor from the University of Notre Dame who was researching a plastic material called divinyl acetylene. Together with top scientists from a similar field, Nieuwland started to research to develop a new compound from divinyl acetylene. They finally succeeded in 1930 when they were able to discover a mass-producible compound called Neoprene. In 1931, neoprene was first marketed under the trade name DuPrene by DuPont which was later in 1937 changed to Neoprene. In the beginning, neoprene was accompanied by a bad odor which resulted in limited applications. But through the continuous development in the manufacturing process, they were able to eliminate the odor.

After the discovery of neoprene, a lot of commercial products started to get manufactured like gloves, shoes, etc along with other industrial products such as car engines, telephone wire, etc. In World War II, neoprene was seen as an alternative to rubber-based products like fan belts, tires, seals and gaskets for vehicles, hoses and many types of gears.

Neoprene was used to manufacture modern wet suits in 1950. Due to the thermal insulation property of neoprene, it was the perfect material for manufacturing wetsuits. During the 1960s and 1970s, a lot of innovations led to the development of different types of neoprene such as titanium-lined neoprene used for making wetsuits, limestone neoprene which used limestone in its manufacturing making it eco friendly in nature.

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