Polystyrene 2016-12-06T05:35:21+00:00


Viscount telephone in ABS High chair for dolls house in PS

Kiddicraft Posting Box in toughened polystyrene Margarine tubs made from polystyrene

In 1831, styrene monomer was prepared by M Bonastre by distilling storax balsam.

E Simon observed that it solidified in storage although he wrongly assumed that an oxide had been formed. AW Hofmann and J Blyth in 1845 obtained the solid by heating styrene in the absence of oxygen, found that it had the same composition as styrene and called it metastyrene.

In 1902 and again in 1911, A Kronstein and FE Matthews respectively, attempted to produce the polymer but neither were successful because of premature solidification of the monomer. C Dufraisse and C Moureu found, in 1922, that the monomer could be stabilised by the addition of small amounts of aromatic amines and phenols.

Styrene was used by I Ostromislenskii for studying the mechanism of polymerisation in the period 1922 to 1925 as did H Staudinger in the period around 1930.

In the 1930s, IG Farben in Germany and Dow Chemicals in the USA started commercial producton of styrene based on a synthesis from benzene and ethylene first devised by M Berthelot in 1851.

Large scale production of styrene was undertaken during World War II, especially for the production of synthetic rubbers based on styrene/butadiene copolymers.

The availability of low cost styrene monomer after the war led to rapid growth in the use of polystyrene. The colour range is unlimited as polystyrene itself is colourless and transparent. It is, however a brittle material and to overcome this problem it was modified by blending with a rubber, though this sacrificed clarity. Even tougher materials based on copolymers of styrene with acrylonitrile and butadiene (ABS) were introduced in the 1950s.

Styrene based plastics are widely used for toys, housings for electrical appliances, etc. and in packaging which also makes extensive use of foamed polystyrene.

The use of the Enthone electroless process for plating on ABS plastics by Marbon in the USA in 1963 further extended the usefulness of styrene based polymers.