chapter  4
162 Pages

Industrial Polymers

The first completely synthetic plastic, phenol-formaldehyde, was introduced by L. H. Baekeland in 1909,

nearly four decades after J. W. Hyatt had developed a semisynthetic plastic-cellulose nitrate. Both Hyatt

and Baekeland invented their plastics by trial and error. Thus the step from the idea of macromolecules to

the reality of producing them at will was still not made. It had to wait till the pioneering work of

Hermann Staudinger, who, in 1924, proposed linear molecular structures for polystyrene and natural

rubber. His work brought recognition to the fact that the macromolecules really are linear polymers.

After this it did not take long for other materials to arrive. In 1927 poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) and

cellulose acetate were developed, and 1929 saw the introduction of urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins.