Neoprene or polychloroprene is a family of synthetic rubbers that are produced by polymerization of chloroprene. Neoprene exhibits good chemical stability and maintains flexibility over a wide temperature range. Neoprene is sold either as solid rubber or in latex form, and is used in a wide variety of applications, such as laptop sleeves, orthopedic braces (wrist, knee, etc.), electrical insulation, liquid and sheet applied elastomeric membranes or flashings, and automotive fan belts
Neoprene resists degradation more than natural or synthetic rubber. This relative inertness makes it well suited for demanding applications such as gaskets, hoses, and corrosion-resistant coatings.It can be used as a base for adhesives, noise isolation in power transformer installations, and as padding in external metal cases to protect the contents while allowing a snug fit. It resists burning better than exclusively hydrocarbon based rubbers, resulting in its appearance in weather stripping for fire doors and in combat related attire such as gloves and face masks. Because of its tolerance of extreme conditions, neoprene is used to line landfills. Neoprene's burn point is around 260°C (500°F). Neoprene foam is also used in many applications. Neoprene foam can be produced in either closed-cell or open-cell form. The closed-cell form is waterproof, less compressible and more expensive. The open-cell form can be breathable.
Neoprene is commonly used as a material for fly fishing waders, as it provides excellent insulation against cold. Neoprene waders are usually about 5 mm thick, and in the medium price range as compared to cheaper materials such as nylon and rubber. However, neoprene is less expensive than breathable fabrics. A foamed neoprene containing gas cells is used as an insulation material, most notably in wetsuits. Foamed neoprene is also used in other insulation and shock-protection applications. In its native state, neoprene is a very pliable rubber-like material, with no better insulating properties than rubber or other solid plastics. For diving and exposure protection applications, neoprene is manufactured by foaming the plastic with nitrogen gas, for the insulation properties of the tiny enclosed and separated gas bubbles . The foam cells thus created also make the material quite buoyant, and the diver must compensate for this by wearing weights. Thick wet suits made at the extreme end of their cold water protection are usually made of 7 mm thick neoprene. Since foam neoprene contains gas pockets, the material compresses under water pressure, getting thinner at greater depths; a 7 mm neoprene wet suit offers much less exposure protection under 100 feet of water than at the surface. A recent advance in neoprene for wet suits is the "super-flex" variety, which mixes spandex into the neoprene for greater flexibility.
Competitive swimming wetsuits are made of the most expanded foam; they have to be very flexible to allow the swimmer unrestricted movement. The downside is that they are quite fragile.
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