Isoprene

 

Since humans were we have needed isoprene. Isoprene is a key chemical needed for rubber. We need rubber for a lot of things we need daily, such as: cars, clothes, kitchen ware, pencils, and of course rubber bands. However to truly understand rubber we must first understand its beginning. Rubber came from the sap of the caoutchoc tree. The French explorer, Charles-Marie de La Condamine first observed rubber being made this way by Omegus Indians. They first collected the sap, then they held it over a fire, and finally they molded it to the wanted shape. Enlightened with this new substance La Condamine gathered a bunch of sap and sent it overseas to Europe. However because of intense heat at sea the sap would ferment and become a stiky, smelly mess. Also when used in the winter, the rubber would become brittle and crack. Then come summer, the rubber would become melted and gooey. This was a big problem.

Numerous attempts were made to fix the rubber epidemic. They failed. Finally, in 1839, (it’s about time right?) Charles Goodyear discovered that if you add sulfur to the sap it will help to control the moisture. ( I kind of think that the melty rubber would have been better than the menevolent smell of sulfur).

Now, if you remember this paper is about isoprene, so why have I been talking about rubber? Well you see natural rubber is made of isoprene. (bet you didn’t see that coming did ya!) Also isoprene is the smallest rapeating unit of any natural polymer, ergo rubber is the simplest of the natural polymers. This natural polymer, aka rubber, has the chemical formula of C5H8.

Now there are two different types of isoprene molecules, cis and tran. These two totally diferent forms help decide what type of rubber you get. (I had no idea rubber was this freaking complex!). in the cis form the two hydrogen atoms share the same side of the double bond. The trans the two hydrogen molecules are across from each other in the double bond. ( hey get it it is called trans because the hydrogen molecule is across, trans, from the other hydrogen. This bond is what holds the rubber together. The trans type has a ton of cross linkage between the two hydrogen molecules. Because of these structure patterns the rubber is very strong and rigid. However with the cis type there is little cross linkage causing the rubber to  be flexible and stretchy.

I can’t believe rubber took so long to figure out. It took over 200 years! However, now that we have it, we use it in everything. It hass become a staple for us. A lot of times we seem to overlook the small important things in our lives, like rubber. I think if we were to pay more attention to the small things in our world, it would be so much easier to fix the big things. I mean look at rubber, we have almost mastered using small rubber pieces and now we have elastic clothes and freaking giant tanks, both of which require those small parts of rubber without which they would fall apart and fail.

 

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