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Inventors Polystyrene and Styrofoam
By Mary Bellis

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, magnetic 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

Related Information
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, online plastic museum.

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
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