History of PVC

Title Page
History of PVC
Manufacture of PVC
Producing Chlorine
Producing Ethelyne
Producing PVC
Producing VCM
Disposing of PVC

The first truly synthetic polymer, Bakelite, was discovered in the USA in 1909 and was safer and tougher than any previously discovered chemically modified variants of natural polymers. Bakelite was made from phenol and formaldehyde and had suitable properties to make it an ideal plastic for electrical appliances. However this plastic had room for improvement which lead to the start of discovering and producing many more synthetic plastics in the years between the two World Wars. This was the time when Hermann Staudinger, a German chemist, finally explained the chemical nature of polymers. His theory was that polymers were built from smaller units that had joined together to form long chains. He was to be proved right.

By the end of the 1930s many purely synthetic polymers were in commercial production. One of which was Nylon; discovered by the chemist Wallace Corothers in 1935 and was used to make stockings and went on sale in New York in 1939 as a luxurious novelty.

Another was PVC, first produced commercially in the USA in 1933 and had an important use as cable insulation during the second World War. It then became used for many more applications soon after.

With the end of the war in 1945, the chemicals industry that was producing these plastics found a public eager to buy products made from them and within a few years they became part of every day living and their names entered the language.