100 years later, Bakelite shines
When Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented Bakelite in 1907, he changed the world — ushering in the Age of Plastics and transforming the way people lived.
The phenolic resin took off first as a superior, easily moldable insulator against heat and electrical current, then as a key material in Art Deco design.
Bakelite was the first truly synthetic plastic, “born of fire and mystery,” as Time magazine put it. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Bakelite. Baekeland filed his famous “heat and pressure” patent on July 13, 1907. The U.S. patent was granted on Dec. 7, 1909.
Bakelite became an almost instant hit. Baekeland’s phenol formaldehyde came along just as America’s electrical and automotive industries were beginning to take off. Manufacturers were starving for a better insulator that was easily moldable and inexpensive. Railways. Telephones. Iron ships. Aviation. Photography. All demanded a consistent, high-quality material that natural raw materials of the day could not provide.
Boonton Rubber Co. of Boonton, N.J., made the first commercial compression molded Bakelite product: bobbin ends.
Impervious to temperature, acids and moisture, Bakelite was nearly indestructible. It went on to replace rubber, shellac and gutta-percha as an insulator. Applications quickly followed in toasters, coffee makers, hair dryers, electric irons, vacuum cleaners, lamp sockets, headphones and more. Major automotive uses included distributor caps, radiator caps, instrument panels, door handles and those classic heavy-duty steering wheels molded from black and brown Bakelite.
Bakelite added a touch of style to radios and Parker pens — items that are valuable collectibles today.
Bakelite was not the first plastic. Depending on how liberally you define the word, animal bone could be a “plastic,” if softened and formed. Since the mid-1880s, some companies had used crude plunger-type presses to form shellac, as well as gutta-percha, into buttons, combs, jewelry and novelties.
And cellulose nitrate already was decades old by 1907. Englishman Alexander Parkes got the first patents on the material, which he called Parkesine, between 1855 and 1865, according to the book Plastics History — U.S.A. by J. Harry DuBois. In 1870, American inventor John Wesley Hyatt patented his material, Celluloid.
Parkesine Co. quickly went out of business. Celluloid won out.
But unlike Celluloid, Bakelite would not catch on fire or melt. And a safer version, cellulose acetate, was not on the market yet when Bakelite came out.
Plus, Bakelite was a thermoset, a plastic that once formed, cannot be melted again. That made it a durable material well-suited for insulating. Bakelite magneto couplings and other parts made the modern Delco car ignition system possible, relegating the old hand-crank to the history books.
Both of the early thermoplastics, cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate, are considered semisynthetic plastics, or the “natural plastics,” because they used a natural material — wood pulp or cotton, modified with acids.
But Bakelite was 100 percent man-made. And the story of how a Belgium native came to invent it, in Yonkers, N.Y., combines elements of the U.S. story of immigration, dogged testing that finally leads to a breakthrough invention, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
He always wanted to make something useful.

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当利奥.汉里克.贝克里特(Leo Hendrik Baekeland)1907年发明胶木(Bakelite酚醛塑料)时,他改变了世界-迎接塑料时代,并改造了人们的生活方式。
胶木是第一个真正的合成塑料。《时代》杂志描述为“生于防火和神秘感”。今年是胶木诞生100周年。 贝克兰德(Baekeland)于1907年7月13日申报了他著名的“加热和压力”专利。美国专利局1909年12月7日批准了该项专利。
胶木几乎瞬间成功。 Baekeland的苯酚甲醛的问世伴随着美国电器和汽车工业的腾飞。厂商当时正在寻求一种易模塑、廉价的绝缘体。铁路、电话、铁船、航空、摄影。所有这一切都需求当时天然材料所不能提供的一致、高品质材料。
另外,硝酸纤维素在1907年也已经有几十年的历史。根据J .哈利杜波斯(J. Harry DuBois )塑胶历史-美国一书介绍,英国人亚历山大.帕克斯(Alexander Parkes)首次获得该材料的专利,他在1855年和1865年称之为帕克森(Parkesine)。1870年,美国发明家约翰.韦斯利.海牙特(John Wesley Hyatt)将其专利材料命名为赛璐珞(Celluloid)。
然而,胶木是百分之百人造的。比利时人在N.Y. Yonkers的发明故事,描述了移民美国、追踪调查(终于导致了突破性的发明)和企业精神等内容。
2007-11-09 23:20
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