The use of the sol—gel process on general-purpose grade rubbers is reviewed in the absence or presence of silane coupling agents. The sol—gel reactions of tetraethoxysilane (TEOS) in epoxidized natural rubber (ENR), styrene—butadiene rubber (SBR) or butadiene rubber (BR) vulcanizates produced silica generated in situ. This silica was found to be a good reinforcing agent by investigating tensile and dynamic mechanical properties and morphology observation by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The amount of silica formed was limited by the degree of swelling of the rubber vulcanizate by TEOS which was the precursor of the silica. However, the dispersion of silica generated in situ was better than conventionally added silica due to its formation in place. Also, it was noted that the diameter distribution of in situ silica was monodispersed. Silane coupling agents, such as mercaptosilane, aminosilane, and bis(3-triethoxysilylpropyl) tetrasulfide, were compounded in the vulcanizates and their effects on silica generated in situ were evaluated. Their effects were significant. The dispersion of the silica in the rubbery matrix became better and the particle size became smaller and monodispersed, as observed by TEM, which improved mechanical properties. The superior properties of silica generated in situ have been studied further to elucidate the mechanism of reinforcement.

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