For SBS Rubber at a glance, click here!

Poly(styrene-butadiene-styrene), or SBS, is a hard rubber that's used for things like the soles of shoes, tire treads, and other places where durability is important. It's a type of copolymer called a block copolymer. Its backbone chain is made up of three segments. The first is a long chain of polystyrene, the middle is a long chain of polybutadiene, and the last segment is another long section of polystyrene. Here's a picture:

Polystyrene is a tough hard plastic, and this gives SBS its durability. Polybutadiene is rubbery, and this gives SBS its rubber-like properties. In addition, the polystyrene chains tend to clump together. When one styrene group of one SBS molecule joins one clump, and the other polystyrene chain of the same SBS molecule joins another clump, the different clumps become tied together with rubbery polybutadiene chains. This gives the material the ability to retain its shape after being stretched.

SBS is made with some really clever chemistry called living anionic polymerization. Click here to see just how SBS is made.

SBS is also a type of unusual material called a thermoplastic elastomer. These are materials that behave like elastomeric rubbers at room temperature, but when heated, can be processed like plastics. Most types of rubber are difficult to process because they are crosslinked. But SBS and other thermoplastic elastomers manage to be rubbery without being crosslinked, making them easy to process into nifty useful shapes.

Other polymers used as rubber include:

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