Throughout history we have defined many time periods by the main materials used by the people. This is true for the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages which refer to two of the earliest periods in human history. Is is safe to say that if we this period were to be defined by the main material used, we would be living in the Polymer age. Polymers are macro-molecules which are made from long chains of individual monomer units. There are both natural and synthetic polymers. We are able to synthesis polymers through various methods, in order to make items that we use in every day life, for instance, the plastic products that we find all around us.
Our area of work being mainly in cold, flowing water, the polymers that are found in the equipment we used are specially designed to aid us in these extreme environments. An example of a polymer used in our equipment is neoprene or polychloroprene, which is produced by free radical polymerization of chloroprene. The plastic is then foamed with nitrogen gas in order to increase the insulation of a wet-suit via the addition of a layer of tiny enclosed and separated gas bubbles. Neoprene is able to maintain its flexibility over a variety of temperatures which makes it perfect for use in a cold environment. However, it is susceptible to pressure changes due to the gas bubbled that are added for insulation, making it thinner at higher depths.
These traits are useful when diving as the insulation provided from the enclosed gas bubbles, allowed us to go to greater depths, while still staying relatively warm. The flexibility provided by the neoprene also aids us when using the equipment at greater depths due the the increased manoeuvrability.
We use a full range of Neoprene products whilst training our PADI Open Water Diver Training courses in Cardiff, Swansea and accross South Wales, on the Open Water Diver course at this time of year we wear hoods, gloves, boots as well as wet suits, so the function of neoprene is highly important to our Divers for their warmth and protection.