Nitrile Gaskets

Where Not to Use Nitrile Rubber Gaskets

Nitrile rubber, also known as NBR and Buna-N is a useful gasket material that many buyers refer to as nitrile. Useful though it is, Nitrile Rubber Gaskets are not a solution to every sealing challenge. Here’s some advice on when and when not to use it.

Properties of Nitrile Rubber

Nitrile or NBR is a synthetic rubber with good flexibility and resilience over a temperature range of -30 to +200 °F (-34 to +93 °C). It has good strength and abrasion resistance and a low compression set, all of which make it an effective gasket material. It’s also available as FDA-approved white nitrile for food industry applications.

A particular strength of nitrile is its ability to withstand attack by oils and fuels. Many gasket materials swell and break down when exposed to lubricants, hydraulic fluids or gasoline, but not nitrile. As a result, it’s used extensively with engines, generators, and fuel and hydraulic systems.

It does however have some weaknesses. It’s not for high-temperature applications, it doesn’t have good weather resistance and it will be attacked by polar solvents.

Polar Solvents and Nitrile Rubber Gaskets

Polar solvents are those where the molecules are composed of atoms with significantly different electrical charges. One example is oxygen and hydrogen. Others are acetone, ethanol, and acetic acid. In chemistry terms, these are considered to have a high permittivity or dielectric constant. You might notice that compounds with a high dielectric constant, like pure water, are also good electrical insulators.

Nitrile is susceptible to attack by polar solvents like those listed above. Interestingly though, while water is also polar, it’s a solvent to which nitrile has some resistance. However, for sealing against water, better gasket material choices would be neoprene or EPDM.

Consider Conditions Before Asking for Nitrile

Nitrile Rubber gasket material is a good choice for sealing against fuels, oils, and lubricants. It should not be used with chemicals like acetone, ethanol, and acetic acid. Neither should it be used outdoors or where temperatures exceed 200 °F. If the application involves water, check with a materials specialist at Hennig Gasket before ordering.

White Nitrile Rubber

Gaskets made from white nitrile rubber won’t impart any taste to food. That’s one reason they’re used in food and beverage production but it’s not the material’s only useful property. Here’s a look.

Understanding White Nitrile Rubber

White nitrile rubber chemical name Acrylonitrile Butadiene carries the ASTM designation NBR and is sometimes referred to as white Buna-N. A blend of neoprene and SBR, white nitrile rubber is an abrasion-resistant elastomer. Shore hardness is around 60, putting it somewhere between tire tread and a pencil eraser, making it firm yet flexible.

White nitrile is usable over temperatures from around -40°F to 220°F (-40 to 105°C.) It resists attack by oils, fats, greases and hydraulic fluids although it is vulnerable to ozone, ketones, esters and aldehydes. (These were explained in a previous blog post, “Ketones and Gasket Materials”.)

Nitrile rubber is produced in a range of colors, but white nitrile is, as the name suggests, white. This gives it some useful applications.

Applications for White Nitrile Rubber Gaskets

As it doesn’t mark surfaces or impart a taint, white nitrile is available in grades approved by the FDA for food use. It’s also non-allergenic. Consequently, white nitrile gaskets are common in food and beverage production as well as pharmaceuticals.

White nitrile rubber is also used in applications where appearance matters. The smooth white finish is often desirable, especially in medical applications, and has a secondary benefit: it shows up leaks that would be unseen against dark materials.

In addition to sealing and gasketing applications, white nitrile is used for cushioning and protection. You may see it as liner in food processing equipment and also as bumper protection strips. A less obvious, though still common application, is for food grade rubber scrapers.

Talk to Hennig Gaskets & Seals

Gaskets for food and pharma use must comply with FDA requirements. White nitrile is often a good choice for such applications, although it has other uses too. As an attractive, non-marking material it works well in situations where appearance matters. Learn more by talking to our specialists.

Gasket Material for Natural Gas

Natural gas is widely used for heating and cooking and it’s the energy source for much of our electricity. Perhaps less well known, it’s also essential for fertilizers and plastics.

The systems that store and distribute natural gas need gaskets. Here we’ll discuss the materials most often used, but first, a short primer.

Hydrocarbon Origins and Uses

Like coal and oil, natural gas is formed from plant and animal remains. Decomposition produces methane, (CH4), and when trapped underground we call it natural gas. Natural gas is odorless, so a trace of mercaptan, (CH4S) is added to make it detectable.

Reacting natural gas with steam separates the hydrogen and a second reaction, this time with air, results in NH3, or ammonia. Chemists call this the Haber process and it’s the first step in producing fertilizers.

Like methane, plastics are also composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The difference is that the atoms are formed into long chains to create polyethylene, polypropylene and similar materials.

Storage and Distribution

When held above 200 bar (3,000 psi) natural gas is known as compressed natural gas (CNG). This makes it sufficiently dense for use as a vehicle fuel. When pipelines aren’t an option, for easier transportation cooling to below -184°F produces liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The Sealing Challenge

The biggest issues are permeability and flammability. Simply put, the very small methane molecules can find their way through some materials, and they burn readily. Fortunately, as it’s lighter than air, escaping natural gas tends to disperse quickly.

Sealing CNG and LNG presents additional challenges. Gasket materials must retain some flexibility at very low temperatures and should have the strength to resist extrusion through joint faces.

Materials for Natural Gas Gaskets

For most low pressure, ambient temperature applications nitrile and neoprene gasket materials are the first choice. In more challenging applications many engineers opt for more expensive Flexitallic spiral wound gaskets. PTFE and graphite are other options.

Every gasket application has some unique challenges. If you need material for natural gas gaskets, ask a product specialist at Hennig Gasket for advice.

Best Gasket Material for Nitrogen

Many industries use nitrogen. Some users even generate their gas on-site. If your company is among them you ought to be familiar with the best gasket materials to use.

Industrial Uses of Nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen is used when very low temperatures are needed. This is often for preserving biological samples or other organic material although other uses include cooling for superconductors and to aid in machining.

Applications for gaseous nitrogen include fertilizer production, food preservation, and annealing stainless steel. It’s also used in the production of electronic components like transistors and diodes.

Nitrogen Production and Storage

Nitrogen is produced by separation from air. (The air around us is approximately 78% nitrogen.) There are two methods:

  • fractional distillation
  • pressure swing adsorption (PSA).

Distillation entails chilling air until it becomes liquid, then raising the temperature slowly to let the individual components boil. In contrast, PSA is done at ambient temperature and in simple terms consists of pushing air through a membrane that separates the various constituents.

Distillation produces higher purity gas but is energy-intensive. PSA scales more easily for local or on-site gas generation, and this is the process most often adopted by manufacturers who don’t want to depend on deliveries and storage.

Suitable Materials for Gaskets in Nitrogen Systems

Nitrile and natural rubber gasket materials are good choices for gaseous nitrogen, although EPDM is generally considered best. EPDM gasket material has good heat resistance and a working temperature range of around -60 to 320°F (-50 to 160C). Resistance to oxidation, UV, ozone, and abrasion are all good and it also withstands water, acids, and alkalies along with ketones and alcohols.

Handling liquid nitrogen demands a gasket material with excellent low-temperature performance. If an elastomer is needed Santoprene® may be a good choice. A trade name for a class of thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV) materials, this behaves much like EDPM but some grades remain flexible at even lower temperatures.

Consult a Materials Expert

Every gasket application is different so it’s always prudent to learn more about the material before purchasing. Specialists at Hennig Gasket are ready to help.

Buna-N (Nitrile) Gaskets and Oil

When working with a gearbox, a pump, or part of a fuel system, it’s essential to select a gasket material with resistance to hydrocarbons. Mineral and vegetable oils, along with diesel, gasoline and similar fuels, attack many materials, causing them to swell or break down. The notable exception is nitrile rubber. Nitrile rubber gaskets, often referred to as Buna-N or NBR gaskets, offer excellent resistance to oil.

Nitrile Rubber Chemistry

Nitrile rubber is made from a blend of acrylonitrile (chemical formula C3H3N) and butadiene (C4H6.) Each component is mixed with water as an emulsion before being combined in a polymerization reaction. This makes the carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) atoms form into long chains that tangle round another to form a rubbery compound.

Increasing the proportion of acrylonitrile makes the rubber stronger and reduces its gas permeability. The trade-off is that it results in a rubber that’s stiffer at low temperatures.

Rubber and Swelling

Most rubber absorbs oil and swells up in size. This is a problem in gaskets used in gearboxes and engines because it can lead to leaks. However, acrylonitrile reduces this tendency. So the greater the proportion of acrylonitrile used in the nitrile rubber formulation the less it will swell.

Swelling is covered in the ASTM D2000 specification. Most nitrile gasket materials are classed as ‘BF,’ ‘BG’ or ‘BK.’ The ‘B’ indicates an upper temperature limit of 100°C and the second letter shows how much the rubber will swell. ‘F’ is swell of 60% by volume, (under specified conditions,) while ‘G’ is 40% and ‘K’ 10%.

When and When Not to use Nitrile Gaskets

Good applications are those where peak temperatures are moderate and there’s exposure to oils. However, nitrile rubber does not hold up well to ozone and oxygen, so should not be used in places where these are present. Water purification equipment is one such location.

The Application Dictates the Gasket Material

If there’s any question about the properties of various gasket materials, consult the specialists at Hennig Gasket. They can explain the material choices available for your application.

Choosing Gasket Material

When changing a gasket most technicians choose a new one made from the same material. If a paper, fiber or cork gasket came out of the joint, then the replacement is usually the same.

That’s not necessarily bad, assuming the gasket hadn’t failed prematurely, but it could also be a missed opportunity. Other gasket materials might hold up better in the application. That would allow more time between inspection and replacement, reducing downtime frequency and saving on maintenance hours.

Gasket materials are specified by multiple criteria, and the importance of each depends on what the application needs. One way of looking at these properties is to divide them into mechanical – their gap-filling ability – and material – how well they handle the media.

Mechanical properties

Whether looking for boiler seals or food grade gaskets, the primary considerations are thickness and hardness. Thickness is easy to understand, (always choose the thinnest that will do the job,) but hardness is less obvious. Gasket material hardness is reported in terms of Durometer, usually on the Shore A scale. (See “Measuring Gasket Material Hardness.”) When comparing two materials of the same thickness, the softer one is usually the better choice.

Other properties to look at are compressibility and creep relaxation. Compressibility measurement is defined by the ASTM F36 standard and describes the load needed to provide a given level of deformation. In general, higher compressibility implies lower loads are needed to secure a joint. Creep relaxation, addressed in ASTM F38, indicates how the gasket thins over time, which reduces bolt loading.

Material properties

Gasket material must be appropriate for the media. For example, nitrile gaskets are preferred for applications involving petroleum, mineral or vegetable oils but don’t perform well with ozones, ketones, esters and aldehydes.

The ability to handle expected temperatures is also important. This is especially critical where the environment causes severe temperature gradients through the joint. (Imagine piping liquid nitrogen in the desert southwest.) Nitrile gaskets may be appropriate for the media but an alternative, like silicone, might handle the temperatures better, (although has poor hydrocarbon resistance.)

The Difference Between Soft, Semi-Metallic and Metallic Gaskets

Gasket selection is driven by the needs of the application. Temperature, environment, media and pressure dictate the gasket required. While there are many different types, to aid selection they are usually separated into three classes:

  • Soft
  • Semi-metallic
  • Metallic

Soft gaskets

These are made from materials that compress easily, such as elastomers like nitrile, (NBR,) EPDM and silicone, as well as graphite, PTFE and fibrous materials. Their corrosion resistance is good but they are limited in the temperatures they can handle. Nitrile gaskets for example only work from -60 to 250°F (-51 to 121°C) and EPDM is only slightly better with a range of -70°F to 350°F (-57°C to 177°C). Silicone gaskets will however go up to 500°F (260°C) and PTFE is effective from cryogenic temperatures up to 450°F (232°C).

Soft gaskets are also limited in their ability to handle high pressures. The best applications are those involving sealing variable gaps as might be found around the doors of an electrical enclosure.

Semi-metallic gaskets

Bridging the gap between metallic gaskets and soft gaskets, the semi-metallics combine features of each. The two main types are spiral-wound and metal-jacketed, although other forms exist. Spiral wound gaskets are made from a ribbon of soft material like PTFE or graphite layered with metal, usually in a ‘V’ form to provide compressibility. Jacketed gaskets consist of a metal cover over a filler material.

Semi-metallic gaskets can handle a wide range of temperatures and pressures up to 6,000 psi, (based on ANSI pressure class 2,500,) so are used in applications ranging from refineries and chemical processing plants to aerospace.

Metallic gaskets

As the name implies, this type of gasket is made from metal. That allows it to resist pressures as high as 10,000 psi but also means it has virtually no compression. Very high bolt loads are needed to create enough deformation for joint sealing.

Metallic gaskets are vulnerable to galvanic corrosion. To minimize problems the gasket metal should be close to the flange material on the electrochemical scale. Alternatively, the material should be chosen to make the gasket the sacrificial element.

How Hot is too Hot? Choosing the Right Gasket Material for a Non-Metallic Gasket

For non-metallic gasket applications, the operating temperature of the finished product is a major consideration. You need to know the temperature range (and other strengths and weaknesses) of potential materials so you can get the most durable custom gaskets and seals. Otherwise, they could prematurely harden, crack, deform and lose strength, elasticity and resilience, etc.

The following is a list of common non-metallic gasket materials, their properties and their most stable operating temperature ranges (in Fahrenheit). Understand that while there may be wiggle room on either end, it’s best to aim for somewhere in the middle of each particular material’s temperature range so that the gasket or seal performs optimally for the longest period of time before replacement is needed.

Nitrile: -30 to 250F (very resistant to oils, aromatic hydrocarbons, fuels and solvents).

Neoprene: -35 to 225F (resistant to weather, water, combustion and a long list of chemicals).

Polyurethane: -35 to 225F (resistant to oxygen, ozone, cracking, abrasion, cuts, grease and heavy loads; frequently used in machine mounts, electrical equipment wear pads and applications needing shock absorption).

Ethylene Propylene: -70 to 250F (resists severe weather conditions, acids, oxygen, alkalis, hot and cold water and ketones; not suitable for use with oils or fuels).

Fluorocarbon: -15 to 400F (its low friction and resistance to wear and tear make this a good material for gaskets that endure movement, a wide temperature variation and frequent reassembly).

Silicone: -65 to 450F (very resistant to hot, cold and oxygen, but poor resistance to oils and fuels; frequently used in food processing and medical applications).

Polytetrafluoroethylene: -238 to 574F (extremely wide temperature range, also stands up to harsh conditions of all sorts; frequently used in food processing, pharmaceutical, laboratory, semi-conductor, petrochemical and chemical and electrical applications).

Temperature range is, of course, just one aspect of a non-metallic gasket material that you will need to consider before project implementation; nevertheless, temperature tolerance is crucial. If you need custom gaskets and seals for your project, please call us at 1-800-747-7661 to discuss your needs with us.

Properties of Neoprene Gasket Material

Neoprene, which is also known as “polychloroprene,” is a type of synthetic rubber produced by the polymerization of chloroprene. Neoprene gasket material has become very common due to the fact that it resists the likes of ozone, sunlight, oxidation and many petroleum derivatives. Additionally, neoprene is characterized as being weather-, combustion-, water- and chemical-resistant. As you can see, it’s popular because it is resistant to many types of damages. What’s more, it’s also resistant to damage from twisting and flexing.

Here’s a closer look at the properties of neoprene so you can judge whether or not it’s a good material for your application:

  • Stretch and cushioning properties: Neoprene is elastic and form-fitting, able to conform to various sizes and shapes. It’s also cushioning, able to absorb shock.
  • Various grades available: From cloth inserted neoprene, which is reinforced with nylon for additional stability, to flame retardant neoprene, which passes a variety of flammability specifications, there are several grades available to suit any application. Other popular grades include commercial, FDA approved, diaphragm and high tensile strength.
  • General gauge thicknesses vary in size from 3/32-inch up to 2 inches.
  • Hardness ratings vary from 40 to 80.
  • Plate finish.
  • Neoprene can withstand temperatures ranging from -20 degrees F to 180 degrees F.
  • Tensile strength ranges from 900 to 1,000 PSI.
  • Elongation ranges from 350% to 400%.
  • Finally, widths are 36 inches, 48 inches or 72 inches.
  • Pressure sensitive adhesive, or PSA, are available upon request.
  • We fabricate neoprene gaskets through proven manufacturing processes that include waterjet cutting, flash cutting and die cutting.

One other neat feature about neoprene is that it’s impermeable, meaning that it can work as a tight barrier to prevent the escaping of gases or liquids.

For more information on the neoprene material and neoprene gaskets, and to speak with someone about placing an order, contact us today.