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Malaysian Polymer Journal, Vol. 10 No. 2, p 54-61, 2015
Available online at www.cheme.utm.my/mpj


Lim, H.M.*#, Mok, K.L.* and Amir Hashim Md.Y.*

*Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, Malaysian Rubber Board, P.O. Box 10150, 50908 Kuala Lumpur,

Corresponding author’s: e-mail: evelyn@lgm.gov.my

Abstract: Disposable synthetic gloves especially nitrile gloves have risen to become the glove of choice for
healthcare workers. However, residual chemicals may trigger allergy among its gloves wearers when they are
leached out from the glove during usage. Alternative vulcanizing system such as organic peroxide has been
found to perform as a crosslinker for nitrile polymer, but the uptake of this system by the glove dipping industry
has been slow. In this present study, zinc peroxide dispersion was used as an alternative compounding ingredient
in fabricating the nitrile latex films in replacement of the sulfur and zinc oxide system. The compounding of the
nitrile latex with zinc peroxide dispersion involved current manufacturing process and less materials usage. The
tensile strength and force at break value of the nitrile films cured with zinc peroxide dispersion were found to be
comparable with the typical nitrile films compounded with sulfur and zinc oxide formulation. The films also
showed higher tear strength and existed as a softer material with higher elongation at break value. The aged
films met the minimum requirements of a nitrile examination gloves.

Key words: carboxylated acrylonitrile butadiene latex, XNBR, nitrile, examination glove, zinc oxide, zinc
peroxide, cytotoxicity

1.0 INTRODUCTION allergy presents as a red, raised and palpable area at the
area of contact with the glove, accompanied by
Nitrile gloves are widely used as medical examination subjective symptoms such as itching, burning and
gloves as it exhibits acceptable barrier protection, good tingling. Additional symptoms include erythema,
strength and puncture resistance and good chemical swelling, cracking, itching, weeping and dryness of the
resistance. The rubber polymer is made up of a random skin at the site of contact although dermatitis may
terpolymer of acrylonitrile, butadiene and methacrylic extend beyond the area of contact5.
acid. Through crosslinking the rubber polymer in the
latex, the strength and elasticity of the nitrile film Gloves manufacturers have been trying to establish an
improves substantially. The nitrile crosslinking occurs alternative vulcanizing system without accelerator to
via the reaction of its carboxylic groups and the metal combat the related health issues. A method and
oxide forming ionic crosslinks and conventional formulations to make nitrile gloves using organic
sulfur/accelerator system forming covalent crosslinks1. peroxide crosslinking system in combination with the
Ionomers formed through ionic crosslinks in use of zinc oxide were disclosed6. Kazumi et al found
combination with acrylonitrile were found to increase dibenzoyle peroxide as an effective crosslinker in nitrile
the toughness of nanostructured materials2. The latex dipping applications7. Over the years synthetic
mechanical properties of acrylonitrile containing films latex manufacturers and researchers also geared
were better than the non-acrylonitrile containing towards developing self crosslinking polymers8. Both
ionomers films3. On the other hand increase in systems showed promising laboratory results but none
carboxylation improves chemical resistance4. have been implemented widely into nitrile glove dipping
production process due to its ease of operation and
In conventional compounding formulation, organic cost. In this present investigation zinc peroxide, a
accelerator such as thiuram, carbamates and thiazole divalent metal peroxide was used as an alternative
are used to contribute to the final properties of the compounding ingredient in producing the nitrile latex
nitrile latex film. However, these organic accelerators dipped films. It is postulated that the zinc peroxide can
may cause Type IV allergic contact dermatitis when react with the carboxylated groups to form ionic
residual chemicals from the gloves come in contact with crosslinking and covalent crosslinking to take place
human skin. The Type IV response begins when the between the double bonds of polybutadiene chains. The
antigens penetrate the skin, triggering the formation of objective of the study is to develop a sulfur and
T cells sensitized to the specific antigens. Currently, accelerator free system for nitrile latex that meets the
carbamates are the most common accelerators used in specification of a nitrile examination gloves. While some
the manufacturing of nitrile gloves. Clinically, a Type IV of the previous study has focus into modifying the main
Lim, H.M., Mok, K.L. and Amir Hashim Md.Y. Malaysian Polymer Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, p 54-61, 2015

polymer chain and use of organic peroxide for set at 80±5°C for 10 minutes before heating up the oven
mechanical properties enhancement without the use of to 100± 5°C and again to 110±5°C for 10 minutes
accelerators. The current study will delve into use of respectively. The films were then removed from the
zinc peroxide as a stand-alone compounding ingredient oven and cooled to room temperature, before being
in producing nitrile films. powdered with corn starch and stripped from the
2.4 Mechanical properties of XNBR films
2.1 Preparation of zinc peroxide dispersion
The tensile properties and tear strength of the unaged
The commercial zinc peroxide used contains 50-60% of and aged (70ºC/7 days) films were determined using an
zinc peroxide and 40-50% of zinc oxide. The metal Instron 5565 Testing Machine according to the ASTM
peroxide is grinded into dispersion form prior to D412 and ISO 34 test method with a crosshead speed of
addition to the carboxylated acrylonitrile butadiene 500 mm/min and 100 mm/min respectively. The test
latex (XNBR) by using ball milling method according to was conducted under room temperature condition
the formulation in Table 1. The zinc peroxide powder is (25±1ºC).
filled into unglazed cylinder with balls, it is then ball
milled for 22-24 hours under room temperature. 2.5 Particle size measurement

Table 1: Zinc peroxide (ZnO2) dispersion. A SALD-2001 SHIMADZU Laser Diffraction Particle Size
Analyzer with a measuring unit and a sampler was used
Parts by weight to measure the particle size of the zinc peroxide
Ingredients (%) dispersion using laser light scattering method. The
measurement range of the Analyzer ranges from 0.03-
Zinc peroxide powder 40.0 70 µm. The measuring unit consists of a light source
Dispersing agent (egAnchoid) 2.0 using semiconductor laser and an optical measuring
unit using a photosensor. The sampler uses a radial
Water 58.0 pump and water supply valve.

2.6 Cytotoxicity
2.2 Preparation of XNBR compound
The cell line and the procedures used are in accordance
The XNBR was compounded according to the to the guidelines detailed in ISO-10993 Part 1 and 5.
formulation in Table 2. The stabilizer sodium dodecyl Test sample was firstly sterilized via autoclaving
sulphate (SDS) was added before the pH of the latex is followed by extraction ingrowth medium at 5 ml of
raised, followed by addition of vulcanizing ingredients medium per gram of sample. The extract was exposed
in parts per hundred rubber (pphr). The preparation of to L929 murine fibroblasts for 24 hours after which the
XNBR compound with the conventional compounding cell viability was determined using the MTT assay which
ingredients (sulfur and zinc oxide) is as described in the measures conversion of the tetrazolium salt (i.e. 3-[4,5-
earlier paper9. dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide)
by the succinate dehydrogenase enzyme found in the
Table 2: XNBR compound formulation. mitocondrias of living active cells10. The optical density
reading which relates proportionally to the number of
living cells, was measured at 570 nm. Results were
Ingredients Dry (pphr) normalized to that observed in growth medium only.
45% XNBR 100
5% KOH 2.0
10% SDS 0.2 3.1 Particle size of zinc peroxide dispersion
40% Zinc peroxide 1.0−5.0
The zinc peroxide dispersion was successfully prepared
using the ball mill grinding method. The dispersion was
observed to be a finely ground dispersion. The particle
2.3 Preparation of XNBR films
size distributions of zinc oxide and zinc peroxide
dispersion were obtained by diffraction method and are
The total solids content of the XNBR was reduced to shown in Figure 1. The average diameter of the zinc
different percentage with distilled water to obtain peroxide dispersion was 0.89 µm. The value of d(0.5)
dipped film of different thickness. Unglazed porcelain representing the 50% percentiles of the size distribution
plates were first heated to 70°C before dipping into a was found to be 0.84 µm. Comparatively the mean
20% calcium nitrate solution. The plates were oven dried diameter of zinc oxide dispersion was 0.62 µm and the
in an air oven set at 70°C before dipping into the latex d(0.5) as 0.51 µm. As the particle size of the zinc
compound for 10 seconds. The resulting wet films were peroxide dispersion was found to be less than 5 µm,
air dried under room condition for 10 minutes before though slightly larger than the zinc oxide dispersion, it
being subjected to leaching in distilled water for 2 is expected that the dispersion can be added to the latex
minutes. The leached films were then dried in the oven system.
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Lim, H.M., Mok, K.L. and Amir Hashim Md.Y. Malaysian Polymer Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, p 54-61, 2015

100 100

Cumulative particle amount

Cumulative particle amount

75 75

50 50

25 25

0 0
0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0

Particle diameater (µm) Particle diameter (µm)

(a) (b)

Figure 1: Cumulative particle size distribution of (a) zinc oxide and

(b) zinc peroxide dispersion.

3.2 XNBR crosslinked with zinc peroxide the 3600 - 3100 cm-1 region of the spectrum, which is
the stretching band of OH from the carboxylate group.
Combination of metal salt and carbon-carbon crosslinks Both films showed similar transmittance bands with the
may have taken place in the vulcanization of XNBR latex zinc oxide containing films showing lower intensity.
with zinc peroxide, as the peroxide used is a mixture of
zinc oxide and zinc peroxide. Ionic crosslinks are
known to form when zinc oxide is present with the
carboxylic group11. The zinc peroxide decomposes to
give zinc oxide and oxygen radicals with no other phase 100
transition when it is heated12 which may occur during
the vulcanization of the nitrile gloves. The curing of
XNBR latex with peroxides presumably occurred
Transmittance (%)

through the development of carbon to carbon linkages13.
The oxygen radicals might attack the double bonds of
the butadiene, the repeating monomers of XNBR to form
the crosslinks. 60

The carboxylic group environment and other functional

groups of the films were studied using FTIR as shown in
Figure 2. The characteristic band of the olefinic double
bond (-CH=CH-) groups14 from butadiene is 1640 cm-1. 4000 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500
However this band could not be observed in the FTIR Wavenumber (cm-1)
spectrum for both films. The absorption band for un-
ionized carboxylate band15 is known to be at 1700 cm-1.
The XNBR films cured with zinc peroxide showed a
strong band at 1600 cm-1, this could be assigned to the
Figure 2: FTIR spectrum of XNBR film cured with zinc
carbonyl stretching vibration of zinc carboxylated salt.
peroxide (──) and zinc oxide (----).
This may indicate that zinc oxide acted as base and
neutralize the carboxylate groups, thus forming zinc
salt of carboxylic acid into the polymer16. Stretching of 3.3 Mechanical properties of XNBR films cured with zinc
nitrile triple bonds (C≡N) at weak peak of 2237 cm-1 was peroxide dispersion
evident in the FTIR spectra17. There was a broad band in
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Lim, H.M., Mok, K.L. and Amir Hashim Md.Y. Malaysian Polymer Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, p 54-61, 2015

The current practice in manufacturing nitrile gloves is The force at break value of all the nitrile films
by using the sulfur and accelerator system. In our compounded with zinc peroxide dispersion were also
current study, the nitrile films were fabricated with the more than 6 N except the 2 phr films at 0.05 mm
zinc peroxide dispersion. The tensile strength of the thickness. With less compounding ingredient, the films
nitrile latex compounded with zinc peroxide dispersion achieved the minimum specification21 (6 N) for nitrile
at two different thicknesses is shown in Figure 3. As the examination gloves as shown in Figure 4. Generally the
trend of nitrile gloves in the current market are moving zinc peroxide containing nitrile films had higher force
towards thinner and lighter gloves, the properties of the at break value than the zinc oxide containing nitrile
XNBR films cured with zinc peroxide were investigated films when it is more than 3 phr. The forces at break
within the thickness range of commercial gloves. behaviour of the films were similar to its tensile
Tensile strengths are measurements associated with strength.
extreme conditions near to complete material failure18.
Without the presence of sulfur, the nitrile films still The elongation at break value of the nitrile films
achieved the minimum specification19 of tensile strength containing zinc peroxide dispersion were higher
(14 MPa) at the lowest dosage although it was lower compared to the zinc oxide containing nitrile films. The
compared to zinc oxide containing nitrile films. films elongated higher than the conventional
However at higher dosage at 3 phr, the tensile strength formulated nitrile films as shown in Figure 5, indicating
of the nitrile films increased and was found to have that the films containing zinc peroxide dispersion were
comparable strength with the zinc oxide containing softer22. All the elongation at break values of the nitrile
nitrile films. As the dosage of the zinc peroxide films was higher than 500% and met the nitrile
dispersion continued to increase at above 3 phr, the examination gloves requirement. The modulus 300
tensile strength of the nitrile films was above 30 MPa. values in this study also reflected that the zinc peroxide
The crosslinking that had occurred has significant containing nitrile films were softer (3 – 4 MPa) as
impact on the tensile strength for both type of films20. compared to zinc oxide (7 – 8 MPa).

0.05 mm films 0.06 mm films

Figure 3: Tensile strength of XNBR films at different thickness cured with zinc peroxide (white bar) in comparison with
zinc oxide (grey bar).

0.05 mm films 0.06 mm films

Figure 4: Force at break of XNBR films at different thickness cured with zinc peroxide (white bar) in comparison with
zinc oxide (grey bar).

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Lim, H.M., Mok, K.L. and Amir Hashim Md.Y. Malaysian Polymer Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, p 54-61, 2015

0.05 mm films 0.06 mm films

Figure 5: Elongation at break of XNBR films at different thickness cured with zinc peroxide (white bar) in comparison
with zinc oxide (grey bar).

Figure 6 shows the tear strength of the nitrile latex Comparing cell performance at these two
compounded with zinc peroxide dispersion compared concentrations enables one to gauge improvement in
with the nitrile latex compounded with zinc oxide biocompatibility. When the extracts were tested at neat
dispersion at different dosage of dispersion. The films concentration, all samples caused massive cell death
compounded with zinc oxide showed significant lower with extremely low, almost negligible cell viability. This
tear strength value. Nitrile films compounded with zinc could be due to the presence of residual ZnO and other
peroxide dispersion showed tear strength value of more chemicals (if any) present in the extracts from both
than 5 N/mm. The tear strength of the films made from formulations. Leaching of chemicals from products has
the zinc peroxide dispersion was more superior been invariably implicated to trigger toxicity25.
compared to the films made from the zinc oxide
dispersion. The tear strength of the nitrile films are well When the extracts were tested at 10X dilution, a clearer
known to be more inferior as compared to the natural ranking was seen with improved cell viability for all
rubber latex films. Nitrile films made from the zinc samples. Dilution is expected to alleviate toxicity and
peroxide dispersion might be able to narrow the gap of condition the extract to a concentration whereby its
tear strength value with the natural rubber latex films. toxicity is sufficiently potent to discriminate between
samples without causing infinite cell death. Results
The mechanical properties of the aged nitrile films are show that at 10X dilution, extracts from the zinc
shown in Figure 7. The behaviour of the aged nitrile peroxide formulation consistently gave higher cell
films containing zinc oxide was studied previously9 and viability than the absolute ZnO formulation, suggesting
shall not be described further here. All the films met that zinc peroxide was more tolerable by cells and less
the minimum specifications of a nitrile examination toxic. It is noteworthy to mention that at this dilution
glove in terms of tensile strength and force at break, factor, biocompatibility of the zinc peroxide
except the 0.05 mm nitrile films containing 1 phr of formulation was similar to that of the cell growth
zinc peroxide dispersion. There was also no significant medium (normalized to 100%), indicating that toxicity
change in the elongation at break value of the films was essentially negligible.
after ageing as compared to the unaged films, indicating
that the nitrile films were not stiffer after ageing and no Unexpectedly, at 10X dilution, the absolute ZnO
weakening of the polymer matrix after thermal ageing23. formulation showed improved cell viability with
The films also maintained its tear strength properties increasing amount of ZnO used. The reason for this is
after being subject to ageing conditions. Retention of unknown however it should be clarified that thetoxicity
the film’s mechanical properties indicated mild assay used in this study measurescell responses
degradation of polymer molecules24. towards residual chemicals that are extracted into
aqueous medium. The amount of residual chemicals in
3.4 Cytotoxicity properties of XNBR films in the presence the extract depends on how readily these chemicals can
of zinc peroxide dispersion be leached out into the extract. Hence, the initial total
chemicals used in any formulation may not always
Extent of toxicity exerted by the extracts prepared from relate proportionally to the toxicity. Within the limit of
films compounded with different amounts and types of experiments carried out in this study, the amount of
curatives is shown in Table 3 below. For this part of the residual ZnO and other chemicals (if any) present in the
study, toxicity was tested at two different extracts was not examined. Therefore the trend noted
concentrations (i.e. neat and 10X dilution) in case no with absolute ZnO formulation could not be interpreted
distinct result was observed with one concentration. further.

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Lim, H.M., Mok, K.L. and Amir Hashim Md.Y. Malaysian Polymer Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, p 54-61, 2015

0.05 mm films 0.06 mm films

Figure 6: Tear strength of XNBR films at different thickness cured with zinc peroxide (white bar) in comparison with
zinc oxide (grey bar).

Figure 7: Mechanical properties of aged XNBR films at 0.05 mm thickness (grey bar) and 0.06 mm thickness (white bar).

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Lim, H.M., Mok, K.L. and Amir Hashim Md.Y. Malaysian Polymer Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, p 54-61, 2015

Table 3: Cell viability of L929 fibroblasts exposed to extracts prepared from ZnO and ZnO2formulations. Extracts were
tested neat and 10X dilution in growth medium.

Sample Tested at Cell viability (%) Tested at Cell viability (%)

1.0 phr ZnO Neat 3 10X dilution 53
3.0 phr ZnO Neat 4 10X dilution 79
5.0 phr ZnO Neat 5 10X dilution 88
1.0 phr ZnO2 Neat 3 10X dilution 103
3.0 phr ZnO2 Neat 3 10X dilution 105
5.0 phr ZnO2 Neat 7 10X dilution 100

4.0 SUMMARY [6] European Patent EP1435374 A2. (2004).

Accelerator free nitrile gloves.
An alternative vulcanization system without the use of [7] Kazumi, K., Kenji, A., & Hisanori, O. (2008). Effect
sulfur and accelerator was developed for nitrile gloves. of new vulcanizing method on nitrile dipping
The zinc peroxide dispersion was prepared using the products. 4th International Rubber Glove
ball mill grinding method and successfully used as a Conference & Exhibitions, Paper B3.
compounding ingredient in the nitrile latex system. FTIR
results showed that the carboxylate groups in the films [8] Han, Y., Mao, L., Meng, H., Zhang, L., & Yue, D.
were ionically bonded by zinc ions. The nitrile films (2014). Novel self-crosslinking film from
cured with zinc peroxide dispersion showed comparable hydrogenated carboxylated nitrile rubber latex.
mechanical properties with higher elongation and tear Journal of Applied Polymer Science, 131, 39865.
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5.0 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Immunological Methods, 65, 55-63.
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