Neoprene is a type of synthetic rubber. Neoprene rubber was developed in the 1930s. Since then, it has been incorporated into numerous products popular in daily life, from wetsuits to protective gear. Neoprene has a variety of properties that make it quite useful, including being abrasion-resistant, chemical-resistant, waterproof, somewhat stretchable and buoyant.
The many unique qualities of neoprene make it useful in a number of popular products. One of the most popular and visible uses of neoprene is with wetsuits. In wetsuits, neoprene traps water between the wetsuit and the wearer's skin. Body heat warms the water against the skin, which works to reduce heat loss from the body. This reduced heat loss allows someone to comfortably stay in colder water for a longer time. It can also be quite buoyant in the water. Many sports enthusiasts use neoprene wetsuits, including scuba divers, surfers and windsurfers.
Neoprene wetsuits come in a variety of thicknesses, from very thin one-half millimeter (about 1/16 inch) wetsuits used to prevent abrasions and sunburns in tropical water to thick seven millimeter (about 1/4 inch) wetsuits used in cold water. Not surprisingly, the thicker the neoprene in a wetsuit, the more insulating it is. While the black head-to-toe wetsuit commonly seen on television is the image many people have of neoprene wetsuits, they come in any number of colors, sizes and styles. Neoprene wetsuits can dramatically slow heat loss in the water, allowing wearers to remain the water for much longer than they would be able to without one.
Outside of the water, neoprene has a number of other uses. Neoprene is resistant to many chemicals and oil, making it particularly useful for protective gloves and similar articles. Neoprene is used in some situations where abrasion can be a problem as well. It can be found on a number of products today, including protective covers for items such as cellular telephones. It is also lightweight. The diverse uses of neoprene help to explain its popularity in many products.
The versatility of neoprene rubber have made it a popular material in a number of items. Its many insulating and protective properties have made neoprene a household name, incorporated into products as diverse as scuba-diving gear to protective gloves.