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Significant Discoveries In The World Of Plastic

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.

One of the first people who pioneered in this industry was Charles Goodyear and his work was on finding ways to strengthen rubber, making it more durable. During those times, rubber was already in wide use, but extreme hot and cold temperatures made it an unreliable material. Goodyear’s theory was that combining other substances with rubber would make it more durable and so it could handle changes in temperatures. The process eventually was named vulcanization and Goodyear is credited with inventing this process although he was not able to perfect it and figure out exactly what substance to blend with the rubber.

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.

Throughout the 19th century and the early 20th century, some plastics were developed by accident. On two separate occasions, a specific type of plastic was accidentally discovered, and this was PVC. The accidental discoveries were done in 1835 and in 1872, the first by a French chemist and the second by a German chemist. Waldo Semon, a chemist then working for B.F. Goodrich later invented and developed a highly usable version of PVC, and this was in 1926. Vinyl, one of the world’s widely used plastic was invented by Semon also. Strong and durable plastic pipes, strong door frames, insulation for cables, and many more, are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and the work is credited to Semon who held more than 100 patents for this.

Many plastics have been discovered by accident, such as polytetrafluroethylene, which is better known to all of us as Teflon. A chemist named Roy Plunkett accidently discovered this handy plastic while trying to invent a new type of refrigerant. Polyethylene, a thermoplastic which is used to make a huge variety of thermoformed packages and products also was discovered by accident by a German chemist in 1898. However, it wasn’t until 1935 that this plastic was suitable for wide-spread use.

Lenna Stockwell enjoys blogging about how stuff is made. For further information about plastic thermoforming or to find out more about plastic food packaging solutions, please go to the Indepak.com site now.