Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cellulose-based plastics: celluloid and rayon

All Goodyear had completed with vulcanization was improving the properties of a usual polymer. The next logical step was to use a normal polymer, cellulose, as the basis for a new material.

Inventors were particularly involved in developing synthetic substitutes for those natural materials that were exclusive and in short deliver, since that meant a profitable market to exploit. Ivory was a particularly attractive target for a synthetic substitution. An Englishman from Birmingham named Alexander Parkes developed a "synthetic ivory" named "pyroxlin", which he marketed below the trade name "Parke sine", and which won a bronze medal at the 1862 World's fair in London. Parke sine was prepared from cellulose treated with nitric acid and a solvent. The productivity of the process hardened into a tough, ivory-like material that might be molded when heated.

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