Most people are familiar with latex especially due to the popular use of latex gloves in the medical profession, however, not many people know what latex is or how it is produced. Latex or natural rubber is a mixture of organic compounds produced by specific plants in cells known as caticifers.
The composition of organic compounds or polymer microparticles in aqueous form that make natural rubber differs from plant to plant. However, most latex is derived from one species commonly referred to as Hevea brasiliensis or simply H. brasiliensis. While the tree occurs naturally in South America, it has been successfully cultivated in large plantations in many Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia.
Basically, latex-producing trees take about 5 years to grow from seedling to maturity and continue to produce rubber until they are about 30 years old. To tap the aqueous compound that make rubber, trees are tapped by cutting a thin strip of bark which disrupts the plant duct containing latex. As a result, the aqueous latex flows down the tree along the grooves and drain into collection cups.
When the collection cups are full, tappers collect the latex and pour it into large containers ready for processing. Once it is processed, latex becomes natural rubber with excellent mechanical properties. It is tear resistant, has excellent tensile, resilience and elongation. In spite of these properties, rubber can be easily damaged by heat, oxygen and sunlight. It is also vulnerable when exposed to petroleum products and other solvents. To make ...