What is Neoprene?

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

It's time to get your thinking caps on, and maybe your wetsuits, too. Why? Today we're diving into a lesson all about neoprene. While we're not actually diving or swimming, that wetsuit is still handy when it comes to talking about this wonderful material.

What is neoprene? It’s a material with a name that makes it sound like a high-end hair conditioner, but it’s actually an industrial material that’s quite different from what people expect.

For starters, although neoprene is technically a foam, it's not quite the same material or texture as foam. Neoprene was actually designed to be artificial rubber!

The History of Neoprene

Many of the man-made materials we know and use regularly today, including nylon and polyurethane, were invented in the 1920s and 1930s. Neoprene is no exception.

Throughout the 1920s, scientists at the DuPont Company were working with a number of compounds broadly called polymers, a fancy name for molecules that are chains of many, many smaller molecules. In one case, a team that included Wallace Carothers (the inventor of nylon) built upon the research of Father Julius Arthur Nieuwland, a specialist in organic chemistry with Notre Dame University. Together, the DuPont team developed an artificial material that behaved like natural rubber. DuPont trademarked the material under the name DuPrene in 1931.

And then World War II Happened

DuPont had been working throughout the 1930s to find a way to mass-produce and commercialize its invention. The U.S. economy, suffering in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, would benefit from a domestically-made substitute for rubber. When the war effort began in earnest, however, the need for a synthetic material to use for making equipment became extremely important.

DuPrene was renamed neoprene in 1936. The generic name reflected the fact that neoprene wasn't an end product, but a component that could be used in any number of items. And during World War II, it was used in hoses, tires, gaskets, and many other non-metal vehicle parts.

In fact, during World War II, U.S. neoprene was only used for making equipment for the war.

Uses and Advantages of Neoprene

We doubt that the DuPont scientists of the 1930s would have imagined neoprene being used in many of the products it's used in today. But that's the great thing about human ingenuity: we're always coming up with innovative ideas and finding new ways to approach various problems.

So what kinds of modern products might contain neoprene?

Can Coolers and Koozies

Bet you didn’t think neoprene was such a big part of your tailgate parties and backyard barbeques?

Scuba Gear and Wetsuits

Your next underwater expedition to find Atlantis is a possibility due to the durability and insulation offered by neoprene.

Neoprene forever?

As you can see, neoprene has a lot of uses, and it's great for a lot of products. However, its properties make it better for some items than others. For example, if you've ever held a neoprene can cooler or tablet sleeve, you can see why some people think neoprene is a foam that's exactly like polyurethane: both are squishy.

I am Rubber, You are Glue...

And then there's rubber, the material that neoprene imitates. Both neoprene and natural rubber are flexible and water-resistant. Neoprene, however, has some qualities that make it better than rubber especially in industrial use:

› It resists grease and oil.
› It stands up to weathering (including exposure to ozone) and soil immersion.
› It can handle a wide range of temperatures – from -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) to 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit) according to DuPont.

Natural rubber, however, is still particularly resistant to tearing and compression. Both neoprene and natural rubber are known for being excellent electrical insulators.

When it comes to your promotional products, neoprene offers one more advantage. In addition to being pad printed or screen printed like the other materials, neoprene can also be embroidered. You can't sew a logo onto polyurethane or rubber!

It's not so much that neoprene is better than polyurethane foam or natural rubber; it's just that it's better for certain products. In fact, it's good enough to be used in war vehicles! You can order a wide selection of items made from neoprene at Quality Logo Products. What can we say? We like to be flexible – as flexible as your favorite neoprene giveaway!