Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, as initially produced, consists of suitable polymers of the organic compound isoprene with minor impurities of other organic compounds plus water. Forms of polyisoprene that are useful as natural rubbers are classified as elastomers. Currently the rubber is harvested mainly in the form of the latex from certain trees. The latex is a sticky, milky colloid drawn off by making incisions into the bark and collecting the fluid in vessels. This process is called "tapping". The latex then is refined into rubber ready for commercial processing. Natural rubber is used extensively in many applications and products, either alone or in combination with other materials. In most of its useful forms it has a large stretch ratio, high resilience, and is extremely waterproof.

The story of rubber is more than tires, toys, gloves, and gum--it's imbedded in modern life, from the controversial Challenger O-rings to seals on hydrogen fuel cells. A gigantic worldwide synthetic rubber industry creates exotic elastomers for high-tech applications, while China's rapid industrialization plays havoc with the world's natural rubber supply. From the ancient Olmecs of Yucatn, who knew the secret of vulcanization, to modern processing plants, we trace rubber's history and future.

Film Duration: 57 min