Invention of Bakelite

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Bakelite, was the first synthetic plastic, ushered in the Age of Plastics. It was invented in the year 1907. Replacing bakelite with Shellac in grinding wheels  revolutionized the auto industry. Bakelite is a synthetic resin that was formed from phenol and formaldehyde. What made Bakelite so popular was its mutlifaceted properties that were extremely useful. Bakelite's thermosetting resin property made it moldable, high temperature resistance, which helped it retain its shape. Its resistance to electricity and chemical action made it a great material to be used in electric uses as well as appliances. It found its way into all walks of human life such as the telphones, electric gadgets and could be made in colors, though the colors weren't exactly its greatest asset, as most colors came up dull and flat in Bakelite.  Due to its numerous uses, the company, Bakelite Corp  named it, "Material of a Thousand Uses", which is the best way to describe Bakelite. Bakelite was leter replaced by other plastics that were invented in the later years.



Who Invented Bakelite?

Bakelite which is the trade name for the phenolicformaldehyde resin, was invented by Leo Baekeland in 1907. Many leading organic chemists of the nineteenth century believed that phenol would condense with formaldehyde, but they did not understand the principles of the reaction which resulted in useless crosslinked materials. Baekeland's idea was to make hard objects from phenol and formaldehyde. He then dissolved the product to reform it again into the desired shape. He solved the problem by placing the reactants directly in a mold of the desired shape and then allowing the reactants to form a hard, clear solid, Bakelite.



What is Bakelite?

Bakelite is a nonflammable material that was cheaper and more versatile than other known plastics. Used in everything from engine parts to jewelry to electronics. Bakelite is based on a phenol formaldehyde resin with the chemical name polyoxybenzyl methylene glycol anhydride. It was formed by the reaction of phenol with a woodflour filler under heat and pressure. It is made by applying heat and pressure to layers of paper or glass cloth impregnated with synthetic resin. These layers of laminations are usually made of cellulose paper, cotton, synthetic yarn, glass fabrics or unwoven fabrics. When heat and pressure are applied to the layers, a chemical reaction (polymerization) transforms the layers into a high-pressure thermosetting industrial laminated plastic



What are the Industrial uses of Bakelite?

  • It was used for its nonconductive and heat-resistant properties in radio and telephone casings and electrical insulators. Colors are added to make it in different shades.
  • Today it is mostly used in disc brake cylinders, saucepan handles, electrical plugs and switches and parts for electrical irons.
  • Bakelite is manufactured and produced in sheet, rod and tube form for hundreds of industrial applications
  • Used in  electronics, power generation and aerospace industries, and is marketed under a variety of commercial brand names, including Garolite.


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