Cork: The Unlikely Hero of Technical Sealing, Vibration and Protection Solutions

3 min read

Cork: The Unlikely Hero of Technical Sealing, Vibration and Protection Solutions

In our nearly 70 years of service, PGC customers have come to expect innovative solutions to their gasket, vibration, and protection challenges. Some of our customers’ components can include high-tech materials that withstand extreme environments, such as low-orbit satellites or Navy ships. But our warehouse also consists of a natural, low-tech material that may surprise you: cork. Cork has been a trusted material in various industries, and its reliability and performance have stood the test of time.

What’s Special about Cork?

Cork, the tissue of a layer of bark from the cork oak tree, is a versatile material that can adapt to a wide range of applications. It is elastic, water-impermeable, and even resistant to fires. Cork can be shaped and mixed with other materials to enhance its sealing, energy control, and durability capabilities, making it a reliable choice for your diverse needs.

Though it’s elastic, cork does not change significantly when it is pulled or pressed. This unique property of cork is particularly beneficial in applications where a material needs to maintain its shape and integrity under pressure or tension. To prove this, think about the last time you opened a bottle of wine. The cork stopper’s shape does not change significantly once you’ve popped it. All these characteristics make cork one of the leading materials for sealing, controlling vibration, and protecting equipment.

Cork is not just a material, it's a sustainable choice. Harvesting the bark of a cork oak does not harm the tree, but instead, it promotes the tree's growth. This unique harvesting process, where a layer of bark is harvested every few years, makes cork one of the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective materials PGC offers.

Gasket and Protective Applications for Cork Composite Materials

Cork is essential for many applications, whether alone or mixed with another material. NASA has used a cork composite as a heat shield in its Genesis, Pathfinder, Stardust, and Mars Exploration Rover missions. It’s also used in earthly vehicle applications.

Often, PGC offers cork blended with other materials, such as nitrile rubber. This composite combines the best properties of cork and rubber to accomplish more than each component can do alone. For example, the cork provides excellent sealing and vibration control, while the rubber enhances the material's durability and flexibility.  Dimensionally controlled cork particles are mixed uniformly with the nitrile rubber or other rubber material, compressed, and processed into sheet form. From there, we precisely cut the cork-rubber composite into the customer’s part shape, just as we can with our other engineered materials.

Customers Who Use Cork or Cork Composite

At PGC, we support each customer’s development of custom solutions, beginning with thousands of material options. No two customers’ end products are precisely alike, and we do our part, offering comprehensive technical advice to narrow the material choices. Our team of experts will assess your specific needs and guide you towards the most suitable cork or cork composite materials. We often suggest specialized cork or cork composite materials for applications in the heavy-duty vehicle, fluid handling, and electronics industries. Since cork is an affordable and renewable material, it also serves customers who require low-cost, green materials.