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Engineering Materials - Thermoset Plastics - Phenolics
Thermoset Plastics

 

Phenolic (Bakelite) --

History - The first truly synthetic plastic was invented by Leo Baekeland - a Belgium chemist living in New York. Baekeland was already very rich as he had invented the first commercially successful photographic paper and sold it to George Eastman in 1898 for $1 million. With such money, Baekeland could engage himself in whatever research he decided to do.

In 1905, he found that when he combined formaldehyde and phenol, he produced a material that bound all types of powders together. He called this material Bakelite - after himself - and it was the first thermosetting plastic in the world. This was a material that once it set hard would not soften under heat. It had so many uses and so many potential uses, that it was called "the material of a thousand uses".

Bakelite was water and solvent resistant; could be used as an electrical insulator; was rock hard but could be cut by a knife and was used in 78 rpm records and telephones. It was a naturally brittle material in pure form, but it could be strengthened with fillers such as wood pulp and cellulose.

Uses - PF was used in early consumer electronic products such as telephones, radios, records. Phenolics are little used in general consumer products today due to the cost and complexity of production and their brittle nature. An exception to the overall decline is the use in small precision-shaped components where their specific properties are required, such as molded disc brake cylinders, saucepan handles, electrical plugs and switches, and electrical iron parts. Today, Bakelite is manufactured under various commercial brand names such as Micarta. Micarta is produced in sheets, rods and tubes for hundreds of industrial applications in the electronics, power generation and aerospace industries.


 

 




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