Technique predicts life of rubber

Tuesday, 13 February, 2001

A new technique for testing the condition of rubber products could lead to cost and time savings for industry and improve safety, by making it easier to check the likely performance life of parts in service.

Scientists from CSIRO and Monash University have developed a technique that can evaluate the condition of rubber products such as conveyor belts or vehicle tyres.

The technique uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques, which involves putting the sample into a magnetic field to measure the 'health' of the rubber. It could lead to the development of a hand held scanning device used to check components while they are in service, eliminating the need to take samples. This will mean that people will be able to get the full life out of components but replace them well before they fail.

"Unfortunately, rubber performance degrades over time due to ageing", says CSIRO's Dr Anita Hill.

"Rubber ageing results in a loss of flexibility, abrasion resistance and elasticity. For many abrasive and erosive applications (e.g. conveyor belts transporting highly abrasive materials or most passenger car tyres) degradation is not a concern because the rubber will be worn away before any significant ageing effects occur".

"However rubber degradation can lead to catastrophic failure, such as a retreaded truck tyre "blow out". In industry it can cause costly downtime and can be dangerous".

Rubber degradation has been very difficult to predict because its rate depends on many factors such as temperature, chemical environment, loading conditions and type of rubber.

"Our new technique will give earlier warning if a rubber part such as a conveyor belt is degrading or losing elasticity, so that the part can be replaced well before failure occurs".

For further information please contact Dr Anita Hill, CSIRO Manufacturing Science & Technology on ph 03 9545 2665 or via email, or Dr Maria Forsyth, Dept. Materials Engineering, Monash University,on 0419 535 811, or via email

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