Gutta Percha: From Underwater Cables to Golf Balls to Dental Work

Chemistry, History
[caption id="attachment_24465" align="alignright" width="340"] From the 1851 book: Gutta Percha, Its Discovery, History, and Manifold Uses[/caption] Gutta percha thermoplastic1 is a tough and leathery resinous produced from the milky fluid tapped from certain trees. Isoprene is an extremely important building block widespread in nature. The main component of gutta percha is, in fact, the trans-1,4-isomer of polyisoprene. The cis-1,4,-isomer is, interestingly enough, the primary constituent of natural rubber. It is produced from the milky fluid tapped from "other" trees. The reason for the considerable difference in physical characteristics between rubber and gutta percha (or, rather the trans and cis isomers of polypropylene) is the greater crystalline character of the trans isomer. Notice the difference between the trans and cis isomers in Image 2. How do these isomers differ? Synthesis from…
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