Polystyrene is a strong plastic created
from erethylene and benzine that can be injected, extruded or blow molded,
making it a very useful and versatile manufacturing material. Most of us
recognize styrofoam a form of foam polystyrene packaging. Polystyrene is
also used as a building material, with electrical appliances (light switches
and plates), and in other household items.
Polystyrene has a long history of
evolution behind it. In 1839, a German apothecary called Eduard Simon discovered
polystyrene. Eduard Simon isolated a substance from natural resin, however, he
did not know what he had discovered. It took another German, organic chemist,
Hermann Staudinger, to realize that Simon's discovery, comprised of long
chains of styrene molecules, was a plastic polymer.
In 1922, Staudinger published his
theories on polymers, stating that natural rubbers were made up of long
repetitive chains of monomers that gave rubber its elasticity. He went
on to write that the materials manufactured by the thermal processing of
styrene were similar to rubber. They were the high polymers including polystyrene.
In 1953, Hermann Staudinger won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his research.
In 1930, the scientists at BASF developed
a way to commercially manufacture polystyrene. Badische Anilin & Soda-Fabrik
(BASF) was founded in 1861. BASF has invented synthetic coal tar dyes,
ammonia, and nitrogenous fertilizers and developed polystyrene, PVC,
tape, and synthetic rubber. (note: A company
called I. G. Farben is often listed as the developer of polystyrene because
BASF was under trust to I. G. Farben in 1930.) In 1937, Dow Chemical introduced
polystyrene to the U.S. market.
What we commonly call styrofoam,
is actually the most recognizable form of foam polystyrene packaging. Styrofoam ®
is a Dow Chemical Co. trademarked form of polystyrene foam
insulation, introduced in the U.S. in 1954. Styrofoam® is a trademarked
name, the real name of the product is foamed polystyrene.
Ray McIntire invented Styrofoam for
the Dow Chemical Co.. McIntire said his invention of foamed polystyrene
was accidental. His invention came as he was trying to find a flexible
electrical insulator around the time of World War II. Polystyrene, which
already had been invented, was a good insulator but too brittle. McIntire
tried to make a new rubber-like polymer by combining styrene with isobutylene,
a volatile liquid, under pressure. The result was a foam polystyrene with
bubble, 30 times lighter than regular polystyrene. source The Detroit News
Leo Hendrik Baekeland patented a
"Method of Making Insoluble Products of Phenol and Formaldehyde"
- plastic history, uses for and making plastic, plastic in the fifties,
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