History of Synthetic Polymers: Part 2 | Regain Polymers

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History of Synthetic Polymers: Part 2

This is a continued post from History of Synthetic Polymers: Part 1


In the early 1930s, Wallace Carothers and a team of chemists were looking for an alternative to silk by investigating synthetic fibres. A promising option came from the reaction of adipic acid with hexamethylenediamine. It was called fibre 66 as each monomer-containing contained six carbons. It created a strong, elastic, largely insoluble fibre with a high melting point. DuPont chose this material for production, and such polyamides were given the name “nylons”.

Poly(vinyl chloride)

PVC was first formed by German chemist Eugen Baumann in 1872. In 1926, scientists at B. F. Goodrich discovered how to use the material to make sheets and adhesives, thus beginning the age of vinyl. PVC's uses include water pipes, building materials, food packaging, wire insulation, and medical components.


Polystyrene is thought to have first been formed by German apothecary Eduard Simon in 1839. However, it was not until 1930 that the German chemical company I. G. Fraben finally put polystyrene on the market. Polystyrene-moulded parts became commonplace by 1935, and today’s applications include loose-fill packaging, shape-moulded packaging, and disposable kitchenware.


Rohm and Haas Company bought Plexiglas from a British company in 1935 and began to produce clear plastic products including replacements for glass in camera lenses, aeroplane windows, clock faces, and rear car lights.

Poly(vinyl butyral)

The polymer poly(vinyl butyral) (PVB) was first used in safety glass in 1938 to prevent flying glass resulting from automobile accidents. The product continues to be used today for the same purpose.

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