Gutta-percha


The term gutta-percha can be used to describe two elements, the first refers to a plant belonging to the palaquium genus, while the second is applied to name an elastic material with a hard consistency which is manufactured from the sap drained by trees belonging to the genus described above, its shape is very similar to rubber, with an elastic, crystalline and solid consistency, by the middle of the 19th century it was gaining importance, to the point that by the year 1851 it is estimated that they were imported into the Kingdom United more than a thousand tons.

Like rubber, gutta-percha is a polymer, however they differ because gutta-percha is a trans isomer, which makes it less flexible, another quite significant difference is the molecular weight, with rubber being greater than 100 thousand while that of gutta-percha is barely 7 thousand.

Before gutta-percha was exported to England and before it became what it was, it was used by the native peoples of the Malay archipelago, in order to make handles for certain tools, later John Tradescant was the one who brought to light to the material while making a trip to the Far East, where he would end up encountering gutta-percha in 1656, giving it the name “Mazer wood”, but it was none other than William Montgomerie (medical soldier) who gave it quite practical uses in the area of medicine, which allowed him to be awarded the gold medal by the Royal Society for the Promotion of the Arts.

In England this material was widely used, using it in different areas, both in the industrial and domestic branches, one of the many applications for which gutta-percha was used, was as an insulator for the cables that made communication with the environment possible. telegraph, since they were under water, the exploitation of this material was such that it caused an overexploitation of it to the point of being practically unsustainable, leading to a collapse in its supply.