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Neoprene and polyethylene gaskets share many similarities, but each has its own place in the pecking order of working components. A neoprene gasket will work well in large engines, such as for cars, trucks, boats and airplanes. All these situations would require a gasket that could stand up to high temperatures as well as a great deal of pressure. A polyethylene gasket works well for sealing doors on appliances such as refrigerators and ovens, as a sealing lining around doors and windows, and as a seal on a lid or jar.
A creation of the DuPont Corporation, neoprene is part of the polychloroprene group of artificial rubber compounds. It is able to withstand a wide range of temperatures, and it is often used in the production of wetsuits, electrical insulation, car hoses and belts, and gaskets.
Polyethylene is also an artificial compound and is part of the polymer family. Created through the polymerization of ethene, a simple alkine, polyethylene was first made by accident during an experiment. The resulting waxy compound quickly demonstrated its ability to be molded into useful products that would hold up well in high temperatures. Some sources cite that as much as 60 million tons of polyethylene is produced annually and used for all sorts of products, ranging from resin furniture to gaskets for refrigerator doors.
When comparing neoprene and polyethylene gaskets, it is important to note that both will stand up to a lot of heat. Along with temperature factors, however, any proper evaluation of these gaskets must also address such factors as operating pressure and shielding. The underlying purpose of gaskets is to prevent fluid or gas leaks between to surfaces that meet.
Because of the superior resistance to heat, neoprene gaskets are typically used in situations where temperatures will be high for extended periods of time. Polyethylene gaskets, by contrast, work very well in situations where the temperatures will be consistently lower. This places the use of polyethylene in the same category as polypropylene gaskets, which require a lot of heat to produce the material and will work quite well in low to moderate temperatures.
One crucial difference between neoprene and polyethylene gaskets is that neoprene is meant to provide a more or less permanent seal, while polyethylene provides a seal that can be broken and then be reestablished. Both materials play important roles in the home, the workplace, and in the production of many of the products that people use every day, but they are not interchangeable in all situations.