Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Inventors & Developers Of Common Plastics

By Lenna Stockwell

It was during the years in the 20th century that the wide use and production of plastic products truly began, although the use of plastic and rubber to make products was already happening in the mid-1800s, and natural rubber had already been in use for thousands of years. The history of plastics and some of the many scientists that have made significant contributions to this is mentioned in the following.

Charles Goodyear was one of the first plastics pioneers, and he attempted to find a way to make rubber more durable. Rubber was being used to make some items, but it was unable to handle seasonal temperature extremes. Goodyear postulated that combining rubber with other substances could transform it into a highly durable substance that could withstand heat and cold. This process is known as vulcanization, and while Goodyear did not perfect the process, he is largely credited with inventing the process.

Thomas Hancock was the developer of vulcanite, which was rubber that was vulcanized with sulfur. Hancock actually filed a patent before Goodyear, and there is some debate as to whether or not Hancock actually invented vulcanization or was simply inspired by Goodyear's experiments. At any rate, Hancock did invent the machines that processed the rubber and this became a booming industry. His friend also named the process of vulcanization after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

It was during the years 1840s to the early 1900s that scientists continued their studies and development of the different types of plastic. Bakelite was the first kind of highly usable plastic invented and the inventor was Leo Baekeland, who began production of this plastic around 1907. This kind of plastic was produced from a reaction between phenol and formaldehyde, produced and widely used until the middle of the 20th century, and was used in the production of everything from radios to jewelry. His creation was known as the first of its kind thermoset plastic. This kind of plastic was the type that can only be used only once, creating a particular product. Thermoplastics were then invented, and these are the kinds that can be re-melted and used again.

There are many plastics that were being developed and studied throughout the 19th century and early 20th centuries, but often patents were not applied for or true stabilization was not obtained. PVC, for example, was actually discovered accidentally on two separate occasions. The first time was 1835 by a French chemist and it happened again in 1872, when a German chemist discovered it. It wasn't until 1926, however, that a highly usable version PVC was developed by Waldo Semon, a chemist who worked for B.F. Goodrich. Semon also invented vinyl, which is one of the world's most widely used plastics. Semon held more than 100 patents and it is because of his work that PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is used to make strong plastic pipes, door frames, insulation for electrical cables and much more.

Teflon, or polytetrafluoroethylene, a kind of plastic material, was also discovered accidentally. This plastic material was discovered accidentally, while the invention was for a new type of refrigerant, and this was done by a chemist by the name Roy Plunkett. A German chemist in 1898 also discovered by accident the plastic product polyethylene, a thermoplastic used to make varieties of thermoformed products and packages. Widespread use of this plastic material was not seen until 1935 though.

About the Author:

No comments:

Post a Comment