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Polyethene

  • Date Submitted: 02/26/2013 06:22 AM
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Polythene/Polyethene/Polyethylene
Polythene/Polyethene/Polyethylene
Polyethylene was first synthesized by the German chemist Hans von Pechmann who prepared it by accident in 1898 while heating diazomethane. When his colleagues Eugen Bamberger and Friedrich Tschirner characterized the white, waxy, substance that he had created they recognized that it contained long -CH2- chains and termed it polymethylene.

A Pill Box presented to a technician at ICI in 1936 made from the first pound of Polyethylene. The first industrially practical polyethylene synthesis was discovered (again by accident) in 1933 by Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson at the ICI works in Northwich, England. Upon applying extremely high pressure to a mixture of ethylene and Benzaldehyde they again produced a white, waxy, material. Because the reaction had been initiated by trace oxygen contamination in their apparatus, the experiment was, at first, difficult to reproduce. It was not until 1935 that another ICI chemist, Michael Perrin, developed this accident into a reproducible high-pressure synthesis for polyethylene that became the basis for industrial LDPE production beginning in 1939. Because polyethylene was found to have very low-loss properties at very high frequency radio waves, commercial distribution in Britain was suspended on the outbreak of World War II, secrecy imposed and the new process was used to produce insulation for UHF and SHF coaxial cables of radar sets. During World War II, further research was done in the United States on the ICI process and in 1944 Bakelite Corporation at Sabine, Texas and Du Pont at Charleston, West Virginia, began large scale commercial production under license from ICI.

By the end of the 1950s both the Phillips- and Ziegler-type catalysts were being used for HDPE production. Phillips initially had difficulties producing a HDPE product of uniform quality and filled warehouses with off-specification plastic. However, financial ruin was unexpectedly...

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