New accelerator for the safe manufacture of polychloprene

Paul Boughton

A project team, headed by new product development contractor Pera Technology, has developed a commercially viable replacement to potentially toxic thiourea-based accelerators which are currently used in the curing process of polychloroprene rubber.

Despite providing a high performance cure system, carcinogenic and mutagenic ethylene thiourea (ETU) is inherently toxic and a statutory ban on its use is expected in the near future. With no existing replacement, the SafeRubber project was launched in June 2010 to develop an alternative for use in the manufacture of polychloroprene (CR) and epichlorohydrin (ECO) rubbers which are used to create products such as wet suits, fire door seals, anti- vibration mounting, and corrosion resistant coatings.

With Pera Technology’s assistance in securing €2 million of funding from the EU FP7 programme and providing access to an extensive network of industry experts, the SafeRubber team could concentrate on examining the chemical mechanisms within polychloroprene during the vulcanisation process. After designing 12 molecules, two suitable accelerator modules were identified as having curing characteristics similar to ETU. One of these, designated as SRM102, is now being scaled up for use in existing industrial processes.

David Cartlidge, Project Manager at Pera Technology, said: “The consortium has been incredibly successful - we’re confident that the European community will see the technological advantage of this new molecule, and ultimately the economic benefit, whilst the significance of improved worker safety can’t be underestimated.

“The synthetic rubber processing sector consists of over 6,000 SMEs, employing over 360,000 people and turning over €3.2 billion within Europe.  The positive completion of the SafeRubber project gives smaller companies a competitive edge.”

The SafeRubber partners are Pera Technology (MaTRI), Associazion Nazionale Costruttoridi Macchine E Stampi Per Materie Plastiche E Gomma, European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Associatino, MGN Transformaciones Fel Caucho SA, Universita’Degli Studi Di Milano-Bicocca, Robison Brothers Limited, Grand Synthesis Latvia, Association Des Producteurs D’articles En Matieres Plastiques Et Elastomeres ASBL, Clwyd Compounders Limited, British Rubber and Polyurethane Products Association Limited,  Mixer SPA, and Norner Innovation AS.

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