The synthesis and patenting of vinyl acetate monomer by Dr Fritz Klatte in 1912, in Germany, provided the foundation for many valuable and now essential plastic products. He found that the catalysed reaction of acetylene with acetic acid gave a readily polymerised low boiling liquid (vinyl acetate) to yield a potential range of dense solid materials. These are now often denoted as (PVAc) or (PVA) polymers.
Klatte and others found that PVA was compatible with other polymers and plasticisers which could give valuable adhesives and coatings for cellulose and textile products. From c.1930 many companies manufactured a range of products such as PVA for liquid solutions and emulsions and hot melt adhesives and paints.
PVA is not an ideal moulding plastic so the development of many economic and attractive alternatives rapidly ensued based on the ability of vinyl acetate to co-polymerise with many other monomers. Hence, co-polymers with vinyl chloride, acrylic monomers, styrene, ethylene and others gave a great range of moulding, coating, sheeting, adhesives, insulating materials, etc.
Hydrolysed versions of PVA gave polyvinyl alcohol as a water-soluble coating and binder. The polyacetal derivatives of these have provided superior bonding and electrical insulation with good stability.
Emulsion paint and adhesive sticks, so readily accepted, are simple examples of these truly outstanding contributions to modern life.