[chemical|anisotropy] the clueless chemist chronicles

…jottings about working, writing and living as a Clueless Chemist in Manila

[jottings] of fuchsia shoes

with 3 comments

I am a proud owner of fuchsia rubber ballerinas by Noosa, a local shoe brand that aims to outdo Crocs in terms of quality and price (they’re on sale at Php250 a pair). Yes, I wear them to school (and I don’t care if people stare down at my brightly-shod feet) because (a) they’re comfy and (b) they’re practical for lab, especially when I work in the NMR room.

Of course, there’s (c)…because the pair’s colored fuchsia! Vibrant, pearly, fluorescent pink that I’m quite sure glows in the dark like an embarrassing valentine. It brightens up my day! πŸ˜€ Heck, as Reg commented, she could see me (or my feet) a mile away.

Color aside, what makes Noosa, Crocs, Havaianas and Ms. Ang’s Durawalk/Advan footwear popular is comfort. Comfort due to the softness and flexibility of rubber.

What is Rubber?

Rubber, both natural and synthetic, is an organic polymer–that is, it’s composed of long chains of hydrocarbon molecules. To simplify it further, imagine a long line of carbon atoms with “pendants” of hydrogens and/or methyls (that’s -CH3) hanging from each carbon. This long carbon necklace is composed of repeating “beads” or “motifs” (see Figure 1) which are called monomers.

Figure 1. (left) A “bead” from rubber’s molecular chain. (right) Isoprene. Images from chemheritage.org and Wikipedia.

What’s special about rubber’s structure is that (1) it’s purely composed of carbon and hydrogen, which makes it nonpolar (therefore, waterproof) and (2) the chain of repeating linear isoprene units gives rubber its elasticity (and softness), like molecular springs. To make it harder (and more durable), rubber is heated with sulfur to “stiffen” the chains, interlinking them with disufide bonds–this process is called vulcanization.

Since our pair of slippers, Crocs or Noosas are soft, we can safely assume that the rubber they used aren’t vulcanized like tires. That is, if we assume that they use natural rubber (from rubber trees). There are other sources of rubber, with different properties due to structural modifications.

Rubber’s structure can be modified in other ways, like changing the positions of the double-bonds or adding different “pendants”, thus affecting the shape and springiness of the chain. These modifications can be found in naturally in gutta-percha and in synthetic rubber.

So, more likely than not, these kinds of footwear use modified rubber, soft yet durable enough for daily wear. And one nice thing about rubber is that one can dye it in a rainbow of colors.

Thus, my now favorite pair of fuchsia shoes. πŸ˜€ From molecule to material to actual commodity.

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Written by Oui

January 23, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Posted in meanderings, science

3 Responses

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  1. Where did you buy them?! What other colors? πŸ˜€

    Clair

    January 24, 2008 at 5:34 pm

  2. There’s black, golden tan, lime green, white…yes, that’s what I remember. You can buy them in Shopwise and Robinsons Galleria.

    oui

    January 24, 2008 at 8:27 pm

  3. Well, now I learned something new.:D

    Jenny

    January 26, 2008 at 11:04 pm


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