INVENTORS OF PLASTIC

It's hard to imagine a non-plastic world, but now these ubiquitous polymers aren't actually too old.

It’s hard to imagine a non-plastic world, but now these ubiquitous polymers aren’t actually too old.

Let’s look at some of the inventors of modern plastic materials. Each of them influenced his determination and critical inventions to the next. They learned about the shortcomings of the innovations of their predecessors, and eventually developed their ideas until the product met the expectations they were looking for.

Alexander Parkes

Alexander Parkes was born on December 29, 1813 in Birmingham, England. His father was a master of brass locks, and at a young age Parkes worked as his father’s apprentice. He started to make metallurgy in metal foundry. His work here enabled him to understand and use the art of electroplating. He applied thin metal sheets to different objects for decoration. His talent was unmatched and he developed new techniques to cover objects as delicate as spider webs.

The Parkes’ interest turned to rubber. He wanted to create a synthetic material that could be molded hot. In 1841, he licensed his first patent for the method of creating waterproof fabrics with thin rubber layers. He continued to work with rubber and obtained more patents for processes that use materials used in techniques that combine electrolytic and rubberization, as well as in tires used for recycling.

In 1885, the Parkes created the first fully synthesized plastic. Dissolved camphor containing cellulose nitrate and ether in alcohol. The result was a product that could be easily molded when heated but retained its shape and firmness when cold. He gave his name to İcada Parkesine and in 1866 he founded the Parkesine company. Unfortunately, he couldn’t hold up. He could not produce the material cheaply and on a large scale. However, the material was flammable and prone to breakage. He then sold the company to several different plastic forming partners, but none of them had the power to run the business.

Alexander Parkes lived until he was 76 years old. He married twice and had 17 children, more than 80 patents. He died on June 29, 1890.

John Wesley Hyatt

John Wesley Hyatt was born on November 28, 1837 in Starkey, New York. The young man worked as a writer. At that time, the New York Billiard Ball Company offered $ 10,000 to those who could find new materials to make billiard balls with all the features of the original ivory balls. Ivory was expensive, monstrous and scarce.

For the detailed story of the Hyatt and billiard balls: (BILLIARDS BALLS FROM IVORY TO PLASTIC)

The Hyatt has lost interest. He tried different materials to make billiard balls. Although he failed, he was able to use one of his newly invented materials of wood pulp and mold to make pressed dominoes and checkers. John Wesley Hyatt passed away on May 10, 1920, with more than 200 patents to his name.

Leo Hendrik Baekeland

Leo Hendrik Baekeland was born on November 14, 1863 in Ghent, Belgium. He excelled in chemistry and physics at the University of Ghent. Hyatt’s celluloid affected Baekeland. He invented a photo paper called Velox, which allowed the development of photographs using artificial light. The photographs had to be developed in sunlight before Velox. George Eastman Kodak of Eastman purchased the technique from Baekeland in 1899 for $ 750,000.

Baekeland continued to work and invented the first thermoset plastic called Bakelite. The resin was highly malleable and could be permanently processed under high pressure. The material made from carbolic acid and formaldehyde was easily reproducible, inexpensive and not flammable.

After obtaining the patent in 1909, Baekeland introduced Bakalit to the world. Products made using the new material included radios, costume jewelry, household appliances and much more. When patents were exhausted, competitors were quick to market similar products.

Leo Hendrik Baekeland died on February 23, 1944 at the age of 80.

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