- Evidence of rubber use goes back 2,000,000 years or more.
In 1839, American inventor Charles Goodyear accidentally discovers how to vulcanize rubber after dropping a piece of the material (which has been treated with sulfur) onto a hot stove.
- In 1879, Bouchardat invented synthetic rubber.
In 1882, John Boyd Dunlop invents the pneumatic (air-filled) rubber tire. The development of gasoline-powered cars with rubber tires leads to a huge increase in the need for rubber.
In 1883, US chemist George Oenslager develops a much faster way of vulcanizing rubber using chemicals called organic (carbon-based) accelerators.
- In the 1890s, the expanded use of motor vehicles, and particularly motor vehicle tires, increased demand for rubber.
- In 1909, a team headed by Fritz Hofmann, working at the Bayer laboratory in Elberfeld, Germany, succeeded in polymerizing methyl isoprene (2,3-dimethyl-1,3-butadiene).
- In 1910, the Russian scientist Sergei Vasiljevich Lebedev created the first rubber polymer synthesized from butadiene.
- In the early 20th century, Russian American Ivan Ostromislensky did significant early research on synthetic rubber and a couple of monomers.
- In 1921, The Stevenson Act was declared, which created a cartel which supported rubber prices by regulating production (see OPEC), but insufficient supply, especially due to wartime shortages, also led to a search for alternative forms of synthetic rubber.
- By 1925 the price of natural rubber had increased to the point that many companies were exploring methods of producing synthetic rubber.
- In 1931, the first successful synthetic rubbers, known as neoprene, was developed at DuPont under the direction of E.K. Bolton.
- In 1932, the first rubber plant in Europe SK-1 (from Russian “Synthetic Kauchuk”, Russian: СК-1) was established (Russia) by Sergei Lebedev in Yaroslavl under Joseph Stalin’s First Five-Year Plan.
- In 1935, German chemists synthesized the first of a series of synthetic rubbers known as Buna rubbers. These were copolymers, meaning the polymers were made from two monomers in alternating sequence.
In 1940, Sovprene, another kind of synthetic rubber, was created by Russian researchers.
- In 1940, B.F. Goodrich Company scientist Waldo Semon developed a new and cheaper version of synthetic rubber known as Ameripol. Ameripol made synthetic rubber production more cost effective, helping to meet the country’s needs during World War II.
- By 1944, a total of 50 factories were manufacturing US’ GRS (Government Rubber Styrene), pouring out a volume of the material twice that of the world’s natural rubber production before the beginning of the war.
- From 1941 to 1945, synthetic rubber production in the US jumped from 8,000 tons in 1941 to 820,000 tons.
- By the early 1960s and after the war, additional refinements to the process of creating synthetic rubber continued. The chemical synthesis of isoprene accelerated the reduced need for natural rubber, and the peacetime quantity of synthetic rubber exceeded the production of natural rubber.