The First Man-Made Plastic – Parkesine
The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material called Parkesine was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded, and retained its shape when cooled.
Celluloid Celluloid is derived from cellulose and alcoholized camphor. John Wesley Hyatt invented celluloid as a substitute for the ivory in billiard balls in 1868. He first tried using collodion a natural substance, after spilling a bottle of it and discovering that the material dried into a tough and flexible film. However, the material was not strong enough to be used as a billiard ball, until the addition of camphor, a derivative of the laurel tree. The new celluloid could be molded with heat and pressure into a durable shape. Besides billiard balls, celluloid became famous as the first flexible photographic film used for still photography and motion pictures. John Wesley Hyatt created celluloid in a strip format for movie film. By 1900, movie film was an exploding market for celluloid.
Formaldehyde Resins – Bakelite After cellulose nitrate, formaldehyde was the next product to advance the technology of plastic. Around 1897, efforts to manufacture white chalkboards led to casein plastics (milk protein mixed with formaldehyde) Galalith and Erinoid are two early tradename examples.
In 1899, Arthur Smith received British Patent 16,275, for “phenol-formaldehyde resins for use as an ebonite substitute in electrical insulation”, the first patent for processing a formaldehyde resin. However, in 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland improved phenol-formaldehyde reaction techniques and invented the first fully synthetic resin to become commercially successful, tradenamed Bakelite.
Timeline – Precursors
1839 – Natural Rubber – method of processing invented by Charles Goodyear
1843 – Vulcanite – Thomas Hancock
1843 – Gutta-Percha – William Montgomerie 1856 – Shellac – Alfred Critchlow, Samuel Peck
1856 – Bois Durci – Francois Charles Lepag Timeline – Beginning of the Plastic Era with Semi Synthetics
1839 – Polystyrene or PS discovered – Eduard Simon
1862 – Parkesine – Alexander Parkes
1863 – Cellulose Nitrate or Celluloid – John Wesley Hyatt
1872 – Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC – first created by Eugen Baumann
1894 – Viscose Rayon – Charles Frederick Cross, Edward John Bevan
Timeline – Thermosetting Plastics and Thermoplastics
1908 – Cellophane – Jacques E. Brandenberger
1909 – First true plastic Phenol-Formaldehyde tradenamed Bakelite – Leo Hendrik Baekeland 1926 – Vinyl or PVC – Walter Semon invented a plasticized PVC.
1927 – Cellulose Acetate
1933 – Polyvinylidene chloride or Saran also called PVDC – accidentally discovered by Ralph Wiley, a Dow Chemical lab worker.
1935 – Low-density polyethylene or LDPE – Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett 1936 – Acrylic or Polymethyl Methacrylate
1937 – Polyurethanes tradenamed Igamid for plastics materials and Perlon for fibers. – Otto Bayer and co-workers discovered and patented the chemistry of polyurethanes 1938 – Polystyrene made practical
1938 – Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE tradenamed Teflon – Roy Plunkett
1939 – Nylon and Neoprene considered a replacement for silk and a synthetic rubber respectively Wallace Hume Carothers
1941 – Polyethylene Terephthalate or Pet – Whinfield and Dickson
1942 – Low Density Polyethylene
1942 – Unsaturated Polyester also called PET patented by John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson
1951 – High-density polyethylene or HDPE tradenamed Marlex – Paul Hogan and Robert Banks
1951 – Polypropylene or PP – Paul Hogan and Robert Banks 1953 – Saran Wrap introduced by Dow Chemicals.
1954 – Styrofoam the trademarked form of polystyrene foam insulation, invented by Ray McIntire for Dow Chemicals
1964 – Polyimide
1970 – Thermoplastic Polyester this includes trademarked Dacron, Mylar, Melinex, Teijin, and Tetoron
1978 – Linear Low Density Polyethylene
1985 – Liquid Crystal Polymers