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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100年后,胶木依然闪耀
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。
酚醛树脂起初作为优秀的、易模压的耐热、阻电的绝缘绝材料,随后成为艺术装饰设计的关键材料。
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。
N.J.布通(Boonton)橡胶公司制造了首个商用压制模塑胶木产品:筒管端盖。
对于苛刻的温度、酸和湿度,胶木几乎坚不可摧。它开始取代橡胶、虫胶和杜仲胶,用作绝缘材料。应用迅速推广到烤面包机,咖啡机,头发烘干机,电动铁杆,吸尘器,电灯插座,耳机等。主要汽车用途包括分配盖、散热器盖,仪表盘,门把手及那些传统重型方向盘,压铸成黑色和棕色胶木。
胶木开拓了收音机和派克钢笔的触摸方式――这些项目是今天珍贵的收藏品。
胶木并不是第一塑料。根据塑料的定义方法,如果可以软化和成型的话,动物骨也可称为“塑料”。自19世纪80年代中期以来,有些公司已利用原始的柱塞式压机将虫胶以及杜仲胶加工到钮扣、梳子、珠宝等新产品。
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)。
Parkesine公司很快破产了。赛璐珞赢了。
与赛璐珞不同,胶木不会着火或融化。当胶木问世时,市场上还没有出现更安全的版本,醋酸纤维素。
另外,胶木是一种热固性塑料,一经成型,便不能再次熔化。这一点使之成为耐久绝缘材料。胶木磁偶合器及其他零件使现代戴尔栲(Delco)汽车点火系统便为可能,并将旧的手动曲柄抛入历史书。
早期的热塑性塑料,硝酸纤维素和醋酸纤维素,由于采用天然物质-木浆或棉、改性酸,被认为是半合成塑料,或"天然塑料"。
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。
他一直希望能做一些有益的事情。
2007-11-09 23:20
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齐乃强,字,安德、石安,号,骑士、松园居士;1963年出生,祖籍山东潍坊,毕业于北京外国语大学国际贸易专业,自修过汉语语言文学、MBA课程;从事专业技术工作14年,金融及商品期货3年,国际贸易10年,文化产业10年;现任中国文化艺术网山东区总监、中国新丝路书画院院长、北京新时代文化传媒有限公司董事长、价值中国网、好人中国网、中国雷锋报社专栏作者;国家一级美术师、中国文艺评论家协会会员。