Freudenberg-NOK develops EPDM rubber from ethanol-based feedstock

By Freudenberg-NOK | April 30, 2015

With the ever-increasing emissions standards and push for sustainability solutions, Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies has developed an ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber compound from a polymer produced from sugarcane-based feedstock.

The biorenewable rubber, for which development began in 2012, is made from a polymer that is made via a process that begins with the sugarcane plant. A sugarcane-produced ethanol is converted into ethylene which forms a substantial portion of the base polymer.

"We had been working with polymer suppliers for ways to reduce our carbon footprint but the polymer offerings lacked the specific characteristics we needed for our advanced manufacturing processes," said Joe Walker, global director of Advanced Materials Development. "So we initiated a project to research the area, and we were able to develop a material that can be used in our next generation injection molding process."

Freudenberg-NOK has focused much of their next generation manufacturing technology on a single cavity, net shape injection molding process which has resulted in reduced waste and energy demand and overall improved manufacturing control, yielding improved quality.  This new concept is becoming a staple at Freudenberg-NOK. The advent of the new, more eco-friendly EPDM rubber is a natural fit for the machines.

Applications for the rubber include seals for coolants, steam, synthetic hydraulic fluids, brake fluids and aerospace hydraulic fluids (phosphate esters). The newly developed material is capable of withstanding temperatures up to 150 Celsius, and the material has outstanding compressive stress force retention.

In addition to these properties, the sugarcane base allows the material to be 45 percent biorenewable, which ultimately reduces the manufacturing carbon footprint.