Ninety years ago a British inventor, Bernard Wilkinson, worked out how to process the latex rubber from his trees in Malaysia using a low shear low energy process, which resulted in a form of rubber with excellent wear and abrasion resistance. The rubber, known as Linatex, retains the long chain high molecular weight composition found in natural rubber, which is typically not the case with normal commercial vulcanised rubbers. The company he founded, now known simply as Linatex, now uses this unique, red rubber to produce lined valves, pumps and centrifuges that are widely used in mineral processing plants, providing products that offer the best in abrasion and wear resistance for uranium, diamond and gold mines, and aggregates. Last week Linatex announced an expansion of their range, to offer knife gate and pinch valves, plus check valves, in sizes from 15mm to 24inches, for use in general industry.
In an interesting application close to (their) home, special grades of Linatex materials have been developed with a resistance to oil and oil based products, for use in the mushrooming palm oil industry in Southeast Asia, also providing membranes that separate the waste materials from the palm oil. These materials were then trialled in the oil-sands processing slurries found at Fort McMurray in Canada: pipe bends lined with the Linagard OSR rubber have shown 50% better wear resistance than competing rubber materials, and are even set to compete with hard metal surface cladding of such components. Maybe some of the benefits come from the expertise developed within the company in engineering the liners for process equipment, and also from that many of the liners are loose, therefore using more of the elasticity of the rubber. This also makes them site replaceable, and retrofit-able.
What other applications might find that Linatex performs better? Well there is one I can report immediately: the samples provided at their launch offer a far better grip for unscrewing stubborn brass screw threads on 150+ year old telescopes than the modern silicone alternatives. However, this is not a big market….