The nitriles are copolymers of butadiene and acrylonitrile, used primarily for applications requiring resistance to petroleum oils and gasoline. Resistance to aromatic hydrocarbons is better than that of neoprene but not as good as that of polysulfide. Nitrile butyl rubber (NBR) has excellent resistance to mineral and vegetable oils, but relatively poor resistance to the swelling action of oxygenated solvents such as acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and other ketones. It has good resistance to acids and bases except those having strong oxidizing effects. Resistance to heat aging is good, often a key advantage over natural rubber.

With higher acrylonitrile content, the solvent resistance of an NBR compound is increased but low-temperature flexibility is decreased. Low-temperature resistance is inferior to that of natural rubber, and although NBR can be compounded to give improved performance in this area, the gain is usually at the expense of oil and solvent resistance. As with SBR, this material does not crystallize on stretching, and reinforcing materials are required to obtain high strength. With compounding, nitrile rubbers can provide a good balance of low creep, good resilience, low permanent set, and good abrasion resistance.

Tear resistance is inferior to that of natural rubber, and electrical insulation is lower. NBR is used instead of natural rubber where increased resistance to petroleum oils, gasoline, or aromatic hydrocarbons is required. Uses of NBR include carburetor and fuel-pump diaphragms and aircraft hoses and gaskets. In many of these applications, the nitriles compete with polysulfides and neoprenes.

Essentially the same techniques of emulsion polymerization employed in manufacture of general-purpose synthetic rubber may be used for production of nitrile polymers. Nitrile rubbers are supplied in various physical forms including sheet, crumb, powder, and liquid. The sheet is the most widely used type, with the other varieties offered for specialty applications.


An outstanding feature of nitrile rubber is its compatibility with many different types of resins permitting it to be easily blended with them. In combination with phenolic resins it provides adhesives with especially high strengths. Other resins used include resorcinol formaldehyde, urea formaldehyde, alkyd, epoxy, and polyvinyl chloride (to produce Type 2 rigid PVC). Both slab- and crumb-type nitrile rubber are used in this type of application, with the crumb type directly soluble and of special interest to adhesive manufacturers who do not have rubber-mixing equipment. Nitrile rubber-phenolic resin solvent solutions are used in shoe sole-attaching adhesives, for structural bonding in aircraft, adhering automotive brake lining to brake shoes, and many other industrial applications.

The powder-type rubbers were also developed for blending with phenolic resins, primarily for the manufacture of improved impact phenolic molding powders.

The liquid nitrile polymer finds use as a tackifier and nonextractable plasticizer in molded rubber parts, cements, friction, and calendered stocks.

Both the liquid and powder are of interest as curing-type plasticizers in vinyl plastisols. Nitrile rubber-PVC blends of various types are used in many other fields including cable jacket, retractable cord, abrasion-resistant shoe soles, industrial face masks, boat bumpers, and fuel lines.


The ratio of butadiene to acrylonitrile in the commercially available rubbers ranges from a low of about 20% to as high as 50% acryloni-trile. The various grades are usually referred to as high, medium-high, medium-low, and low acrylonitrile content.

The high acrylonitrile polymers are used in applications requiring maximum resistance to aromatic fuels, oils, and solvents. This would include oil well parts, fuel-cell liners, fuel hose, and other similar applications. The low acrylonitrile grade finds use in those areas requiring good flexibility at very low temperatures where oil resistance is of secondary importance. The medium types are most widely used and are satisfactory for all oil-resistant applications between these two extremes. Typical applications include conveyor belts, flexible couplings, soles, heels, floor mats, printing blankets, rubber rollers, sealing strips, aerosol bomb gaskets, milking inflations, seals, diaphragms, O-rings, packings, hose, washing machine parts, valves, and grinding wheels. These established uses give only a slight idea of products that are made of nitrile rubbers.

Physical properties of cured nitrile rubber parts are directly related to the ratio of butadiene and acrylonitrile in the polymer, as indicated below:

As acrylonitrile content increases:

1. Oil and solvent resistance improve.

2. Tensile strength increases.

3. Hardness increases.

4. Abrasion resistance improves.

5. Gas impermeability improves.

6. Heat resistance improves.

As acrylonitrile content decreases:

1. Low-temperature resistance improves.

2. Resilience increases.

3. Plasticizer compatibility increases.


The polymer with the highest acrylonitrile content produces the highest tensile strength and hardness; it also exhibits the best resistance to fuels and oils. As the percentage of acrylonitrile decreases, there is a corresponding decrease in resistance to fuels and oils; at the same time low-temperature flexibility characteristics are improved. Resiliency also increases. The lowest acrylonitrile polymer exhibits only moderate resistance to swelling in aromatic fluids but remains flexible at very low temperatures in the range of -57 to -62°C.

Thus, properly compounded nitrile polymers will provide high tensile strength, excellent resistance to abrasion, low compression set, very good aging under severe operating conditions, and excellent resistance to a wide range of fuels, oils, and solvents. They are practically unaffected by alkaline solutions, saturated salt solutions, and aliphatic hydrocarbons, both saturated and unsaturated. They are affected little by fatty acids found in vegetable fats and oils or by aliphatic alcohols, glycols, or glycerols.

Nitrile rubber is not recommended, generally, for use in the presence of strong oxidizing agents, ketones, acetates, and a few other chemicals.

Next post:

Previous post: