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ELASTOMERIC BEARIGS IN POLYCHLOROPRENE

VS
NATURAL RUBBER

This report was written in order to demonstrate that elastomeric bearings made of
polychloroprene (CR) have some advantages against natural rubber (NR). First of all, I
am going to explain what polychloroprene and natural rubber are.

Polychloroprene or neoprene is a family of synthetic rubber that is produced by


polymerization of chloroprene. This rubber is not characterized by one outstanding
property; but its balance of properties is unique among the synthetic elastomers. It
has:

- Good mechanical strength


- High ozone and weather resistance
- Good aging resistance
- Low flammability
- Good resistance towards chemicals
- Moderate oil and fuel resistance
- Adhesion to many substrates

Natural rubber is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid
produced by some plants. It has a long fatigue life and high strength; it can be used to
approximately 100ºC and sometimes above. It has good creep and stress relaxation.
Its chief disadvantage is its poor oil resistance and its lack of resistance to oxygen and
ozone. To protect this rubber it is necessary to add some chemicals.

AASHTO and EN1337-3 allow the use of NR and CR for the elastomeric bearings
because of their physical properties, but natural rubber is more vulnerable to ozone
attack. Ozonolysis, the reaction of ozone with the olefinic double bonds in the molecule,
causes the scission of these bonds. Minute concentrations of ozone can cause cracking within
a few weeks if rubber is unprotected and a minimum tensile strain occurs. The critical
extension in NR for cracking to occur (regardless of ozone concentration) is less than 10%
extension. When exposed to weather conditions in an extended mode, vulcanizates with
double bonds crack perpendicular to the direction of applied stress. With increased extension,
the number of cracks formed per unit area and time increases rapidly.

But rubber products are easily protected from ozone attack. Ozone protection is provided by
petroleum waxes, flexible coatings, chemical antiozonants and blending with ozone-inert
rubbers. These products can bloom in the surface and create serious problems that I am going
to explain.
Elastomeric bearings in polychloroprene VS natural rubber

Next to natural rubber, chloroprene rubber is the most commonly used basic material
for rubber
ubber bearings in the World (raw material or raw polymer). This synthetic rubber
offers excellent resistance against outsider influences and time-dependent
dependent molecular
changes. In countries with long tradition in natural rubber _primarily England and the
Netherlands,
erlands, but also Canada_
Canada natural rubber is usually used for bearings in
structures. Besides cost advantages, it is perhaps experience in production and being
accustomed to the material, rather than any real technical arguments, that speak for
this Choice. In spite of that fact remains that natural rubber has a lower aging stability
than chloroprene rubber, even when the former can be greatly increased by adding
aggregates to prevent aging. The 1961 AASHTO rules therefore expect from natural
rubber 1/8 the ozone stability of chloroprene.

Use of natural rubber in elastomeric


bearings in the USA
25
Number of States

20
15
10
5
0

Allowed and used


Allowed but
seldom used Prohibited

In addition, some engineers may choose to design elastomeric bearings to sit on the
piers without a connection. The bearing is held in place by frictional resistance only.
Paraffin used in natural rubber would bleed out and result in significant decrease in
friction. As such, elastomeric bearings would slip away and walk out from their
original locations. To solve this problem, neoprene, instead of natural rubber, is used
as elastomeric because paraffin is absent in neoprene bearings.

This problem of excessive movement of the elastomeric bearings appears to be


caused by walking of them, phenomena explained as significant overall bearing
movement in one direction caused by accumulation
accumulation of small movements during shear
cycling. One factor found to be conductive to movement was Guild up of wax on the
bearing surface. The wax,, used as ozone protection in natural rubber bearings, can
migrate to the surface of the rubber in large quantities and produce a slick contact
surface.

Sliding
ing can cause some bearings to move from their original position, as seen in the
picture.

2
Elastomeric bearings in polychloroprene VS natural rubber

Walking _the
the phenomena explained as significant elastomeric bearing movement in
one direction caused by the accumulation of small movements
ovements during shear cycling_
cycling
can cause some elastomeric bearings to slip completely out from under the girders.
girders
Because most elastomeric bearings are not physically restrained in the
the structure, only
friction created between the pad and the bridge keeps the bearing from moving. It has
been the impression of several sources that the cause of slipping may be a film of wax-
like material which appears on the surface of the bearing SEAT and the concrete
girders and onn the pad that have walked out. The wax layer reduces the coefficient of
friction at the contact points between the bridge and the bearing, decreasing the th
forcee necessary to induce sliding of the bearing.

If the bearings were designed to be placed with no connection, like in the bridges you
are going to construct, they will be held in place by friction created by the structure’s
dead weight.

If the movement caused


aused by walking of the elastomeric bearing, the bridge will be
raised to place back the bearings in their proper locations. This process is costly and
inconvenient as it requires the closing of the roadway. Sliding is also undesirable as
abrasion caused by sliding will limit the Lifetime of the bearing and may require the
bearing to be replaced.

I would like to finish with an example of bridge built with neoprene elastomeric
bearings. It is an Australian bridge.

3
Elastomeric bearings in polychloroprene VS natural rubber

New Australian Bridge is a Tribute to Today's Technology as Well as the


Staying Power of Neoprene polychloroprene

The Glebe Island Bridge in Sydney, Australia is a tribute to the


latest bridge technology as well as to the staying power of the
world's first synthetic rubber, Neoprene polychloroprene. The
ultra-modern structure relies on nearly six tons of Neoprene in
4,500 internal guide blocks, 2,200 deviator pads and sleeves and
6,700 bridge stay-cable anchor components. Bridge engineers
selected Neoprene because of its high tensile strength and
resistance to pollutants, ozone and UV light exposure. The
expected lifetime of worry-free performance for the bridge
components made with Neoprene is at least 30 years.

Bridge Span With Long Lifespan One of almost 500 miles


of stay cables supporting
"Our suppliers, Polycom Australia, agreed with us that the best Sydney Harbor's Glebe
product for the project was Neoprene," says Vance Kelley, Island Bridge shows a
director of Sydney-based Premier Rubber, the company that protective sleeve of
molded the components. Samples from each batch of Neoprene Neoprene. It also
contains 4,500 internal
destined for bridge construction were tested for ozone resistance,
guide blocks and 2,200
accelerated aging, tensile strength, tear resistance, compression deviator pads of
set and ultimate elongations. "In every test, the product exceeded Neoprene.
the requirements," states Kelley. Kelley's confidence level in the
product is based not only on his tests, but the proven
performance demonstrated by Neoprene over the years in other
outdoor urban applications. "Neoprene has an excellent
reputation for weathering, including resistance to pollutants and
the elements, including oil, grease, UV light, fumes and ozone,"
he added.

New Design, Old Reliability


Opened in 1995, Sydney's striking new bridge is a vital
link connecting thousands of commuters between Glebe
Island and the city's central business district. With a main
span of 1,132 feet, it is the longest cable-stayed structure
on the continent. The ultra-modern, sleek structure
consists of two delta-shaped towers, each 394 feet high,
which support the slender cast-in-place concrete deck.
Cable stays radiate down from the head of each tower to
anchor the deck, where components of Neoprene provide
Sydney Harbor's spectacular new a fixed or semi-fixed point to minimize the bending
Glebe Island Bridge relies on effects at the anchorage. Engineers at Austress Freyssinet
DuPont Performance Elastomers Pty Ltd., manufacturers of the stay-cables and
Neoprene 6,700 times in cable-stay anchorages, also specified Neoprene for other bridge
anchorage components components with confidence. Neoprene has exhibited
outstanding performance in bridges around the globe for
the past 65 years.