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Any of several natural or synthetic colloidal suspensions (seecolloid). Some latexes occur naturally in the cells of plants such as chicle and rubber trees. They are complex mixtures of organic compounds, including various gum resins, fats, or waxes and, in some instances, poisonous compounds, suspended in a watery medium with dissolved salts, sugars, tannins, alkaloids, enzymes, and other substances from which the latex (or natural rubber, the only available rubber until 1926) can be concentrated, coagulated, and vulcanized. Synthetic latexes (e.g., neoprene), made by emulsionpolymerization from styrene-butadiene copolymer, acrylate resins, polyvinyl acetate, or other materials, are used as paints and coatings; the plastic, dispersed in the water, forms films by fusion as the water evaporates.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on latex, visit Britannica.com.