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What is neoprene?

The name neoprene is the generic brand name of DuPont, which brought the substance in 1938 first on the market. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber, ie an artificially made rubber. The substance is also known by the chemical names chloroprene rubber, polychloroprene or chlorobutadiene rubber. Today, neoprene is used in the water sports and automotive industries. Neoprene is obtained by polymerizing chloroprene to polychloroprene. The result is a dispersion that precipitates by acid and cooling and is then dried. This forms chips that come for further processing in the trade. In the water sports area mainly foamed neoprene is used, which is obtained by vulcanization. Using chemical blowing agents and certain temperatures (below 160 ° C), the polychloroprene foams and cross-links. The result is a thermoplastic elastomer. In this neoprene many, small gas bubbles are distributed. Because of this, this substance is so insulating.

Properties and applications

The polymer dispersion and the polychloroprene are used for adhesives. The vulcanized product is extremely resistant, water-repellent and heat-resistant, resists embrittlement and weathering. Because of this property, this material is often used in the automotive industry. Among other things, it makes car seats, drive belts, seals, hoses and cable sheathing. The vulcanized and thus foamed product is often used in the field of water sports. The porous nature of the fabric creates buoyancy and gives it good insulation properties. In addition, the more frothy and thicker the fabric is, the more flexible it is. Consequently, it is particularly suitable for the production of functional clothing. Neoprene is also used in construction and in the home. For example, laptop bags or mouse pads are made of neoprene. In agriculture, cuttings are stabilized and protected by neoprene.

Neoprene types in water sports

Generally neoprene is made and used in different material densities and strengths. If it is used for clothing, it is usually laminated with textile fabric. If the lamination is only on the inside, it is called smooth-skin neoprene. Often both sides are laminated, which changes the properties depending on the material. The double lamination makes the fabric more robust, but reduces the insulating effect. For more flexibility also unbacked neoprene is used. Meanwhile, there are manufacturers who use only the so-called Limestone neoprene. In the production of this variant, limestone is used instead of crude oil. Hence the name Limestone, the English term for limestone. The Japanese company Yamamoto developed this version in the mid-50s. With this new kind of production the material properties and the environmental balance improved. The structure of the Limestone Neoprene is finer-pored. Thus, it is even water repellent, heat resistant and durable. Often one reads of L-Type or S-Type neoprene. These terms are just a small excerpt from the Neoprene Bandwidth. The letter refers to the thickness of the fabric and thus to a stretching and insulating properties. Mostly neoprene is processed with nylon and spandex.

wetsuits

Before the various water sports became popular hobbies in the last century, people and especially professional divers used diving suits to protect themselves from overcooling in the water. These were made of leather and metal. Only later was the gummy neoprene used. Today one differentiates wet and semi-dry suits (wet and semidrysuits) as well as dry suits, which are used primarily with the diving. Meanwhile, the semi-dry wetsuits have become standard. These differ from the wet suits with the glued and additionally sealed seams, the panel-secured zipper and the cuffs. The suit is very close to the body, so that no water can penetrate. By laminating the neoprene, the skin is protected from the wind and by water-impermeable material inserts the water bubbles in these places completely. In addition, the suit is heat-resistant. Different material mixtures optimize the elongation properties. This improves the freedom of movement, which can be limited depending on the neoprene thickness. Thicker neoprene is used at colder water temperatures to better protect the surfer from chilling. Also, the cut of the suit depends on the water temperature but also the preferences of the athlete. There are so-called shortys, which are worn in the spring and, depending on the average, also in summer. Ultimately, the water sportsman can determine which trouser length he wears and whether he decides for long sleeves or short or completely waives this. Depending on the sport, a distinction is made as to whether the zipper is at the back (back zipper) or at the front (front zipper). In classic surfing the surfer lies with the upper body directly on the board. Thus, a closure on the back better. If outdoor and water temperatures fall below 15 ° C, accessories should be considered.

Neoprene hood, gloves and shoes

The human body loses relatively much of its warmth over the head, hands and feet. In sports, just those parts of the body have to remain warm and flexible. Therefore, there are neoprene hoods, gloves and shoes to protect the athlete from chilling. Sometimes there are suits that protect these parts of the body. On the other hand, it makes sense to choose these accessories to fit and need exactly. For the gloves there are regular models, but also mittens, 3-finger cuts and half-finger variants. Even with the neoprene shoes, the manufacturers come up with numerous variations to meet the individual needs of water sports enthusiasts. Whether neo socks, neo-boots with a high shaft - the shoes are always high-quality processed, but then differ in shape, thickness, closure and other features such as reinforced ankle areas and other material inserts for example, more grip. In addition, the shoes often serve as protection. Some have a special aramid sole, better known under the brand name Kevlar, which protects the foot from sharp reef parts, sea urchins and others.

For all products made of neoprene, however, it is important that you care properly. Especially after use in salt water, it is extremely important to rinse them and air dry them so they can prove to be long-lasting and faithful companions while surfing.