• The Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) under the Rubber Board has developed a method to dry sheet rubber in 24 hours in place of the traditional method that takes four to five days.
• Rubber plantations are mostly owned by small farmers. They prefer to sell their produce as quality sheet rubber (ribbed smoked sheets or RSS-4 grade) to earn a better price in the market.
• It is estimated that there are around 13.2 lakh small rubber holdings in the country, while the number of large estates (10 hectares or above) is minimal. A total area of 8.23 lakh hectares is covered under the crop in the country and production comes up to around 7.15 lakh tonnes annually.
• The conversion of raw latex into sheet rubber helps them store the produce and sell according to the market situation as price fluctuation is a constant phenomenon. However, the traditional method of drying sheet rubber takes four to five days. The processing involves coagulation, sheeting and drying.
• The much quicker method of drying is done by replacing the conventional coagulant — diluted formic acid — with a mixture of the acid and alcohol and an improved sheeting process.
• Coagulation is a step in which chemicals are added that cause small particles suspended in the liquid medium to clump together. Common Example of coagulation is the Coagulation of blood where blood changes from a liquid to a gel, forming a blood clot.
The new process
• In the new process, coagulation takes only about 30 minutes and the drying can be much quicker after loading the wet coagula in the smokehouse. Quick drying is achieved by increasing the effective surface area through additional rolling.
• Quality of the sheets processed under the new method compared favourably with the traditionally processed ones. The new method helps get RSS-4 sheets ready within a day, which in turn aids small farmers to dispose of their produce faster.
Mains Paper 3: Science and Tech
Prelims level: Rubber Research Institute of India
Mains level: Awareness in the fields of Science and Technology