First Man-Made Material (03:39)
In 1863 the American government offered a reward for an ivory substitute because it was needed to make billiard balls. John Hyatt improved on gun cotton and came up with celluloid. This plastic polymer was used for billiard balls and false teeth.
Material of a Thousand Uses (03:34)
Chemist Leo Baekeland learned that Southeast Asian farmers preserved wood products with beetle secretions. When the invention of electricity created a need for a shellac type substance, Baekeland invented Bakelite.
First Types of Plastic (04:02)
When Professor Otto Bayer invented polyurethane in 1937 his colleagues did not know what to do with it. It is now used in memory foam. When DuPont invented nylon, or polyamide, the public thought it was magical.
Nylon in the War (02:26)
World War II changed the world. Nylon factories began manufacturing parachutes. It was used to make tires, tents, ropes, and other military supplies. DuPont's stockings caused riots after the war. Supply and demand created a surge in plastics.
Chemical Structure of Plastic (03:43)
Malleability and strength are what make plastic so valuable. A polymer is a chain of molecules linked together forming super molecules. Plastic is a major environmental issue because it does not decay. Recycling is one of the best options.
Biodegradable Plastics (03:03)
Polymers are in and around humans everyday. The idea for the first plastic was made from the shellac secreted by beetles. Chemists in Boston came up with plastic made by microorganisms. Degradation speed depends on environmental factors.
The Future of Plastics (02:33)
Chemists are working to genetically engineer bio- energy crops to produce bio-plastics. CO2 is taken out of the air using energy from the sun and captured as the long polyester chain. This is then extracted from the plants.
Credits: Plastics: Quirky Science (00:44)
Credits: Plastics: Quirky Science
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