Because of environmental concerns, the zinc content in rubber compounds has come under scrutiny; therefore it is necessary to explore possibilities to reduce this zinc content. In this article the application of several zinc complexes as activator for sulfur vulcanization are discussed, in order to find alternatives for the conventionally used ZnO and fatty acid activator system. The effects of different zinc complexes on the cure and physical properties of two widely different rubbers, viz. EPDM and s-SBR, are studied. It can be concluded that zinc-m-glycerolate is a good substitute for ZnO as activator for sulfur vulcanization, in EPDM as well as in s-SBR rubber, without detrimental effects on the cure and physical properties. Furthermore, the results indicate that, dependent on the intended applications, zinc-2-ethylhexanoate represents a substitute for the commonly used ZnO. Zinc stearate is considerably less active as activator in sulfur vulcanization.

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