Daily life 2 min
Plastic - a hundred years young
It is found in every area of our daily lives. From roller skates through credit cards and the Iphone to artificial hearts. Plastic can claim to be the only material used in every area of application that makes our daily life that much easier. A hundred years of fantastic plastics ...
Plastic - a hundred years young
Plastic - a hundred years young

Milestones

1907. Bakelite

Leo Baekeland created the first fully synthetic resin: Bakelite. When heated, it quickly takes on the shape of its container. This versatile material, a thermosetting plastic, does not burn, boil or melt and is not dissolved by solvents. Used in jewellery, it can be coloured or opacified to look like onyx, jade, marble or amber.

Its excellent qualities as an electrical insulator made it the industry’s choice in the 1920s for making telephones and the earliest household electrical appliances.

1912. PVC

Polyvinyl chloride was discovered in 1835 by French physicist Victor Regnault. German Professor Fritz Klatte developed the manufacturing processes, enabling it to be put into industrial development in 1912.

Large-scale industrial production began in 1938, and the first French PVC production unit followed soon thereafter.

 

 

1913. Cellophane

In 1900, Edwin Brandenberger had the idea of creating transparent packaging for food.

Thirteen years’ research into the properties of viscose led him to develop cellophane, the first flexible, perfectly non-permeable film with countless applications in everyday life.

1924. PMMA (Plexiglas)

In 1900, Edwin Brandenberger had the idea of creating transparent packaging for food.

Thirteen years’ research into the properties of viscose led him to develop cellophane, the first flexible, perfectly non-permeable film with countless applications in everyday life.

 

 

1933. Polyethylene

Low density polyethylene was discovered as the result of research into resins by E.W. Fawcett and R.O. Gibson.

A leak in the apparatus in which the reaction between ethylene and benzaldehyde was produced left a white waxy substance at the end of the experiment.

The world’s most widely-used plastic, polyethylene has an extremely varied range of uses, from military applications to shampoo bottles.

1937. Polyurethane

When Dr. Otto Bayer developed polyurethane, no one could imagine the success it would have.

Since then, several generations of chemists, developers, engineers and designers have raised it to the level of a universal material.

1938. Nylon (Polyamide 6.6)

The firm DuPont de Nemours gave the name nylon to the synthetic fibre developed in the 1930s by a research team headed by chemist Wallace Carothers.

It is a super-polyamide which forms extremely strong, rot- and weather- resistant elastic fibres. Nylon earned its credentials as the material of GIs’ parachutes before revolutionizing the post-war textile industry.

It would become the first mass-marketed synthetic fibre.

1944. Le Polystyrène

Extruded polystyrene was developed in 1944 by Ray McIntire while working on flexible rubber product development for Dow Chemical.

The discovery came by accident: the original idea had been to co-polymerize styrene and isobutylene under pressure. But only the styrene polymerized, while the isobutene vaporized and mixed into the polymer matrix.

Marketed under the name of Styrofoam, this rigid low-density material was first used as building insulation.

1954. Polypropylène

Working for Montedison, Giulio Natta (1963 Nobel Prize-winner with Karl Ziegler) discovered a catalyst of the so-called "Ziegler-Natta" family yielding a polypropylene which had high mechanical strength, was inert to chemical attack and usable at temperatures above 100°.

2010. The future

That oil will become scarcer and more expensive is certain. But the intrinsic qualities of plastics make them absolutely vital, especially in new applications like wind turbines and solar panels.

That is why work is being done to supplement them with renewable source-based materials, like biomass-generated polyethylene or PVC, and starch or corn products.

Plastics are well and truly a permanent part of our lives. Which is why researchers are working to ensure their continued production today, and to find solutions for the future.

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