Looking at science-fiction futures, there's always a lot of steel and glass. Floating cities suspended by combinations of anti-gravity and plot convenience gleam in the sun. Even habitat modules for terraforming feature mostly plastic domes and the occasional steel scaffolding.
Missing from these dreams of the future is the presence of sturdy, pliable, and abundant rubber material. Rubber hasn't been completely overlooked by substance chemists and architects, though. They've been devising new uses for rubber since the 70s.
Many of these innovations have come as a response to adverse effects. Earthquakes and landfills clogged with car tires have presented inspiration to engineers and designers.
Today, the problem with plastics requires new ideas. Getting away from fossil fuel dependence has created reasons to rethink even the fictional future.
New Uses for Rubber Material
Rubber itself traces along human history and has had more than one rebirth int its usefulness. While rock and wood may predate it in use, it beats out metal smelting in its original cultivation.
It took the invention of vulcanization to make rubber strong enough for the heavy tasks required in construction but at last, we've arrived. Consider the special properties of rubber polymers in each of these upcoming innovations.
- Lead-Rubber Bearings
Lead-rubber bearings (LRBs) were invented by Dr. Bill Robinson. These laminated pillars of lead and rubber around a rubber core offer excellent energy-absorption.
Though expensive to produce and install, LRBs find use in thousands of buildings. Mostly they are found in highrises throughout the world to withstand earthquakes. The combination of materials provides a lot of lateral absorption while being able to return to the original shape.
Essentially they act the same as shock springs on a car, adjusting to the changing conditions of the ground so that the building above floats through the impact.
Engineers install LRBs in key locations to provide a modicum of protection. Road and rail bridges have also used this rubber invention to reduce damage. The major drawback of the technology is the price tag.
- Flooring Underlayment
Produced originally by ECore, the idea of these things made of rubber is all about recycling. Old car tires are ground up and introduced into flat sheets. The sheets can be bonded with any type of traditional laminate material.
The particular properties of rubber make this type of flooring soft enough to walk on for long periods of time while also being durable. The laminate process enables the flooring to look like any other conventional building flooring.
The relative springiness of the flooring isn't felt in any individual step. The flooring feels solid to the brain but the foot enjoys double impact protection like wearing an insole. This flooring has a big future in high-impact areas that see a lot of foot traffic such as hospitals, schools, and apartment complexes.
Another use of recycled tires is the production of roofing shingles. Rubber materials offer superior moisture reflection to traditional asphalt and slate materials.
The inorganic composition also restricts the growth of molds and mildew, providing an extra level of protection against damp in warm climates.
The elasticity of rubber gives the tiles further protection against abrasion. This translates into protection against the punctuated damage of hailstones. You'll also save on power bills given that rubber has strong insulating properties.
- Colorful Floors
Interiors of homes also benefit from the introduction of rubber materials. Rubber, traditionally thought of as a black substance, can be manufactured in any color and, because the color is an intrinsic component of the rubber, doesn't fade or scrapes off.
This makes rubber a useful, low cost and resilient decorative material. Techniques for casting rubbers provide you with the ability to design and install objects of any shape.
Taking rubber out of the usual hiding places of pipes and behind the scenes wiring and seals, opens up lots of options. The overall safety of the material can be incorporated into danger areas like stairways, kitchen counters, and window treatments.
- Noise Reduction
Rubber provides additional acoustic absorption options for designers. this isn't so useful in a quiet country home or cabin but can make a world of difference in creating mid and high rise apartments.
With rubber materials incorporated into the walls and floors, neighbors can live more peacefully. You can become blissfully unaware of the thumps, pounding, and music that surrounds you.
Rubber's ability to be stretched and molded into shape also leaves fewer areas for structural gaps which let in the elements and channel sounds. No more hearing the shrieking pipes of a bad boiler in every apartment they pass through.
- Fire Resistance
New laminate and pressure-treated wood materials have been the rage for the last few years for replacing steel beams. These products offer the same strength for less weight and also high fire resistance.
Rubber surpasses these polymers in both fire retardancy and low-toxicity smoke. That a lot of the rubber materials hitting the market come from recycled sources is a bonus. That rubber saves trees (given that modern rubbers are synthetic and no longer latex sap) is another bonus.
- Rubberized Concrete Rafts
This final option joins LBRs in combating earthquake damage. Rubberized concrete rafts were also designed in New Zealand.
They use a combination of the same rubber-gravel used in flooring and tiles. These rafts also incorporate micro-reinforced steel components to prevent cracking under heavy loads.
The resulting material offers the same strength as concrete for foundations but provides flexibility. While the structural shock absorption doesn't quite match that of LBRs, rafts can be produced at a lower cost.
With so many uses and companies willing to create supplies, its no wonder that architects are coming around to the use of rubber materials. The relatively light, strong, and pliable materials work well when their heat resistance and durability are also taken into account.
Construction trends are slow-moving, so it may be another decade before you see a lot of rubber in your neighborhood or office, but the day is coming. Stay tuned here for more innovations and information concerning the architectural world.