latex, emulsion of a polymer (e.g., rubber) in water (see colloid). Natural latexes are produced by a number of plants, are usually white in color, and often contain, in addition to rubber, various gums, oils, and waxes. Balata, caoutchouc, chicle, and gutta-percha are produced from natural latexes. Synthetic latexes may be prepared in two ways: the polymer may be prepared as an emulsion (emulsion polymerization), or the dry, powdered polymer may be dispersed in water. Both natural and synthetic latexes are widely used, especially in the production of rubber goods. Latex paints, sometimes called rubber-base paints, consist of a latex colored by the addition of a pigment.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.