I.G. Farbenindustrie

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I.G. Farbenindustrie 2016-12-06T05:35:21+00:00

I.G. Farbenindustrie



developed polystyrene

picture above shows Professor Katz of Amsterdam University surrounded by polymer scientists from IG Farben in 1929

I.G. Farbenindustrie AG was formed in 1925 from an earlier grouping of German chemical industries. This involved considerable rationalisation of the industry, and IG Farben concentrated on moving into new fields such as plastics, synthetic rubbers and synthetic fibres.

The late 1920s and early 30s saw pioneering work in the science of polymers led by Kurt Meyer and Herman Mark. A process for the production of styrene monomer by the catalytic dehydrogenation of ethyl benzene was developed by Herman Mark and Carl Wulff.

In 1831 styrene had been extracted from Storax, a balsam secreted by the tree ‘liquidamber orientalis’, by M Bonastre . Its solidification had been observed in 1839 by E Simon who suggested the name ‘Styrol’. Its potential as a solid material was investigated in 1902 by Kronstein and by Matthews in 1911 but further work was hampered by problems of premature solidification (polymerisation) of the styrene monomer. C Dufrais and C Moureu discovered the stabilising effect of phenols and aromatic amines in 1922 and this enabled subsequent developments..

Styrene then played an important role in studies of polymerisation mechanisms by Staudinger in 1929-35 and by Ostomislenskii about 10 years earlier.

Commercial development of styrene polymers was started by IG Farben in 1929 and by Dow Chemical Co. in USA in about 1935. Production of styrene was greatly increased in both Germany and USA during the Second World War, particularly for the manufacture of synthetic rubber.

IG Farbenindustrie was dismantled after the war, but the ready availability of styrene monomer led to a rapid growth in the production of polystyrene plastics and consequent developments in injection moulding in the early post-war period.