Rules of Thumb

Everything You Need to Know About Temperature and Rubber Seals

While rubber is often regarded as having strong, durable qualities, there are many outside factors that can have a heavy impact on its performance. Temperature largely affects certain rubber compounds, whether it be extreme heat or cold.

Not all rubber is the same. In fact, certain rubber materials have better resistance to temperature than others. In order to ensure your rubber seal will function at its fullest potential, it is important to be aware of the conditions your rubber material can handle. Here’s what you need to know about how temperature affects rubber seals:

Low temperatures can cause trouble in elastomeric materials.

When sealing materials reach low-temperature limits, they will harden and resist deformation pressure,  causing leak paths. Once a leak path is formed, it will remain in the seal indefinitely, even when heated back up to normal temperatures. It’s important to note a seals temperature limit before application to avoid the loss of flexibility and cracking.

There are a variety of different tests that can be done to detect the temperature properties of a specific rubber compound. Since there is no universal test that will provide all of the necessary information, engineers must use the correct test based on the application. Some of these tests include brittleness, temperature retraction and torsional stiffness ratio.

Choosing the right material is crucial.

When designing a seal for a high-temperature application, choosing a material can be tricky. Many rubber compounds cannot withstand extreme temperatures for extended periods of time. Rubber materials may be exposed to high heat in steam and gas turbines, ethylene production and industrial exhaust systems. These applications produce extreme heat, exposure to harsh chemicals and strong transfer fluids.

The right material can make a huge difference when designing a seal for a high-temperature application. When choosing a rubber compound, Perfluoroelastomer, Fluorocarbon, Silicone and AFLAS™ all have excellent resistance to heat.

Test your seals in the temperature range it will be performing in.

Changes in temperature can cause rubber materials to shift and alter their dimensions. For sealing applications, it’s critical that rubber measurements are precise in order to avoid complications and leakage. To prepare for potential shifts or changes in the seal, it’s important to test the seal in the environment it will work in. This will leave you with the information you need to ensure your rubber seal will perform at its fullest potential.

Rubber seals are often applied in a variety of intense environments, ranging from the coldest climates to extreme heat. Since each rubber material has different properties and weaknesses, material selection is a crucial step in the engineering processes. You can learn more about rubber properties and how to choose the right material with our O-Ring Material Selection Guide.


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