The key difference between Lycra and neoprene is that the lycra is an elastic fibre while the neoprene is a form of synthetic rubber.
Both lycra and neoprene are polymer materials. Therefore, they contain a large number of repeating units that represent the monomers, which undergo polymerization in order to form this polymer. Both are synthetic materials, but there are differences between them. Apart from the above key difference, another important difference between Lycra and neoprene is that Lycra has exceptional elasticity whereas Neoprene has exceptional inertness.
What is Lycra?
Lycra is a synthetic polymer material that comes under elastic fibres. It is well-known for its exceptional elasticity. Moreover, it is a copolymer consisting of polyether and polyurea. Another common name for the same material is Spandex. However, some people call it Elastane. The lightweight and the nearly invisible nature of this fibre material makes it an active ingredient in our clothes.
There are four different ways of producing these fibres. They are melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution dry spinning, and solution wet spinning. However, about 95% of manufacturers use solution dry spinning method. Moreover, all these methods include the formation of a pre-polymer from reacting the monomers as the first step.
The major applications of this polymer material are due to its elasticity and strength. The most significant property of lycra is its ability to return to the original shape after stretching, and faster drying than ordinary fabrics. The applications are in apparel garments, compression garments, shaped garments (such as bra cups, support hose, surgical hose, etc.) and in home furnishings.
What is Neoprene?
Neoprene is a form of synthetic rubber. It forms as a result of polymerization of chloroprene. This material has good chemical stability, and it can maintain its flexibility to a wide temperature range. There are two major ways that people sell this material; as solid rubber or in latex form.
Moreover, the production method of this material is free radical polymerization of chloroprene. For the initiation of the production, we need potassium persulfate. Firstly, it forms individual polymer strands. Then, we can crosslink these individual polymer strands using Bi-functional nucleophiles (consisting of two functional groups), metal oxides and thioureas.
Among the applications of this material, the general applications include the production of as gaskets, hoses, and corrosion-resistant coatings. In the field of civil engineering, people use it as a load bearing base, usually between two prefabricated reinforced concrete elements or steel plates. In addition to that, we can use this material in making protective clothes for aquatic activities. Apart from that, it is useful in the automotive industry for making car seat covers, etc.
What is the Difference Between Lycra and Neoprene?
Lycra is a synthetic polymer material that comes under elastic fibres, and Neoprene is a form of synthetic rubber. The key difference between lycra and neoprene is that the lycra is an elastic fibre while neoprene is a form of synthetic rubber. Another difference between lycra and neoprene is that the lycra is a copolymer of polyether-polyurea while neoprene is a homopolymer of chloroprene.
Moreover, lycra has exceptional elasticity while neoprene has exceptional inertness. When considering the production process, for lycra, there are four different ways as melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution dry spinning, and solution wet spinning. But for neoprene, it is free radical polymerization of chloroprene.
The below infographic provides more details on the difference between lycra and neoprene.
Summary – Lycra vs Neoprene
Both Lycra and neoprene are synthetic polymer materials. However, they are different from each other in many aspects. The key difference between Lycra and neoprene is that the lycra is an elastic fibre while the neoprene is a form of synthetic rubber.
1. “Bras.” FRAME “REDGRAVE” Jeans Featured in LYCRA® Insiders Refinery29. Available here
2. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Neoprene.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 3 July 2015. Available here