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History of plastics The natural breakthrough for the first semi-synthetic plastics material cellulose nitrate occurred in the

late 1850s and involved the modification of cellulose fibres with nitric acid. Cellulose nitrate had many false starts and financial failures following its invention by a Briton, Alexander Parkes, who exhibited it as the worlds first plastic in 1862. First known as Parkesine, then Xylonite, it began to find success in the production of objects such as ornaments, knife handles, boxes and more flexible products such as cuffs and collars. 1907 The first man made plastics Bakelite, a condensation product of phenol and formaldehyde, was invented by Leo Baekeland, a Belgian-born chemist. It was the first truly synthetic plastic to be patented. Because of its excellent electrical insulating properties, it was initially used to make electrical insulators in cars and industrial products. Later it found its way into consumer products such as telephones, radio cabinets, ashtrays and cameras. 1912 A German chemist, Fritz Klatte, discovered the basic principles for the industrial production of polyvinyl chloride, PVC. Klatte also discovered vinyl acetate and obtained patent for its preparation from acetylene gas. Its corresponding polymer, polyvinyl acetate PVA is used in latex prints and is reacted with aldehydes to make coatings and films, in particular polyvinyl butyral, widely used in laminated safety glass. 1921 The first injection moulding machine was designed and the following year the first spectacles were moulded in cellulose acetate. 1930 Polysterene was first produced commercially when an economic process to produce styrene monomer was developed and a method was found to prevent premature polymerization of the monomer during storage and shipping. 1940- The first totally man-made fibre Nylon had been discovered at the end of the 1920s but was not put to great use until the 1940s. Capable of being spun into long filaments which could be woven or knitted, the new plastic was used to do anything from parachutes to ladies stockings. 1950- A first for the car industry 1956 saw the major use of plastics in car body design when the roof of a Citroen DS was made from unsaturated polyester reinforced with fibre glass. This combination became a popular choice thereafter in the production of body parts for cars and boats. 1960-Home Decor The first domestic items made from moulded polypropylene were developed from 1963 onwards- including combs, lemon squeezers and bottle stoppers. 1973 The first oil crisis saw crude oil shortages and a doubling of the price. For the first time, attention became focused on the finite nature of oil supplies. With increasing recognition of their contribution to reducing oil for energy and transport, production of plastics accelerated. 1980 Laminates saw a revival in the world of interior design. But unlike the decorative laminates of the 1960s, the new breed was at the upper market. 1992 Metallocene catalysts initiated a new era in the production of polyolefins such as polyethylene and polypropylene. They enable producers to precisely define the polymer structure and hence the physical properties of these plastics.

2001 Plastics have enabled mankind to live in the most challenging environment-space. As the International Space Station began to take shape, the contribution of plastics could be seen everywhere. Plastics were essential in the design of many key components: structural elements, insulation, life support systems, space-unit fabric, food packaging, guidance and communication systems etc. The electricity supply for the station comes from solar panels made from plastic.