Goodyear’s 1839 discovery of the vulcanization of natural rubber obtained from rubber trees marks the beginning of the modern rubber industry. A variety of synthetic rubber products were subsequently developed. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, scientists have now introduced a new, interesting variant: a phosphorus-containing rubber with a structure that corresponds to that of natural rubber.
The similar properties of double bonds between carbon atoms (C=C) and phosphorus–carbon double bonds (P=C) led to the idea to try general polymerization techniques on the latter. After a number of successful attempts, researchers working with Derek P. Gates at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) wanted to apply this concept to molecules that contain both P=C and C=C double bonds: phosphorus analogs of the building block of rubber, isoprene (2-methylbuta-1,3-diene) and its close relative, 1,3-butadiene.