From rocks to wetsuits – Limestone Based Neoprene…

CleopatraCoasteering Gear

TIKI Ladies ZEPHA 4/3 GBS BACK ZIP Steamer

TIKI also sent out a Ladies ZEPHA 4/3 GBS BACK ZIP Steamer wetsuit for Cleo to put through its paces.  Here’s a little more info on the limestone based neoprene….yes that’s right wetsuits made from rocks!!

Limestone is a sedimentary rock created over millions of years from fossilized marine organisms and is remarkably free from impurities.  It has been used in the production of many products around the globe and recently its properties have been brought to bear on the wetsuit industry. This has allowed companies to develop suits that make oil based neoprene suits pretty much obsolete. They provide serious advantages across a number of areas and exhibit the following functionality:-
Pembrokeshire Limestone Cliffs **
  • Lightweight
  • Exceptional Thermal insulation
  • Super stretchy
  • Easy to take on and off
  • 95% water impermeable
  • Reduced drag and increased speed

The design and manufacture of the limestone based neoprene means that it contains a 23% higher close cell structure than oil derived neoprene which makes it more buoyant and as these closed cells are gas filled a lot more heat insulating than old oil based neoprene.

Critically it has a maximum elongation of over 480%, and the human skin only stretches to about 70% making these wetsuits the most free moving and flexible.

Limestone based Neoprene is close to 95% impermeable to water you don’t have to spend energy warming more water in your suit.. you also come out pretty much dry. This means that the wetsuit will weigh a lot less after being in the water and will dry a heck of a lot quicker, so you can get into the water for a second time in a nice dry suit!

The micelle structure on the rubber also repels water and therefore reduces surface friction making it move through the water quicker, again great for paddling a board, conserving energy and therefore air in Scuba and a potentially devastating advantage during a triathlon.

How is limestone neoprene made?
Limestone Cliffs

The first stage of production is to make the polychloroprene rubber chips. To do this, extracted limestone is fed into a furnace and heated at a temperature around one-tenth of that used for refining petroleum. The source of the heat is from burning used tires and hydroelectric power sourced from several local dams (any waste heat is then reused to power a local eel nursery). From the furnace, components are reacted with other chemicals to make the acetylene gas needed for the polychloroprene rubber chips.

The polychloroprene rubber chips are then melted and mixed together with foaming agents and black carbon pigments, and then baked in an oven to make it expand. Once this sponge block has cured the next process is to slice it up into sheets. This is like slicing a loaf of bread, except it is slit horizontally and to the desired neoprene thickness. Finally, the soft sheets are laminated with high stretch nylon or polyester jersey knit to give them strength.

** Pembrokeshire Limestone Cliffs are not used in the manufacture of wetsuits.  They are protected as part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.