gutta-percha (gŭtˈə-pûrˈchə) [key], natural latex obtained from Palaquium gutta and several other evergreen trees of East Asia. The latex, collected by felling or girdling the tree, is allowed to coagulate and is then washed, purified, and molded into bricks for shipping. Like caoutchouc, gutta-percha is a polyterpene, i.e., a polymer of isoprene (see rubber), but, unlike caoutchouc, it is not very elastic; the reason for the difference is that the polymer molecules in gutta-percha have a trans structure, whereas those of caoutchouc have a cis structure (see isomer). Gutta-percha is an excellent nonconductor and is often employed in insulating marine and underground cables. It is also used for golf-ball coverings, surgical appliances, and adhesives.
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