Polyvinyl Chloride

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Polyvinyl Chloride 2016-12-06T05:35:22+00:00

Poly(vinyl chloride)

Dress belt 1960s Marshmallow Man 1980s Rainhat 1950s
PVC curtaining, 'Collage' - Storella by Storey's 45 rpm record 1950s Squeaky toy 1950s

Vinyl chloride was first produced in 1835 by HV Regnault who also observed its polymerisation by sunlight. Ostromislenski investigated it further in 1912, and H Staudinger, by fractionating the polymer from solution in 1930, was able to show the relationship between polymer molecular weight and solution viscosity.

The polymer, however, was not commercialised until Waldo Semon produced a plasticised material in the 1930s, when it was introduced mainly as unsupported, flexible sheeting. An early and important use was as a waterstop in dam construction.

The technique of producing PVC plastics from a paste of polymer and plasticiser by gelling on a hot surface originated in Germany in 1931, and was commercially used in the UK from 1942. It was also developted to make PVC coated materials for upholstery by spreading the paste onto a fabric, and also used to make hollow articles such as squeaky toys and dolls. Such processes have been known as slush moulding, rotational casting and dip moulding.

Due to shortage of natural rubber during World War II, PVC was employed as a rubber substitute for cable covering and many other uses. PVC stripped from unwanted cable after the war was used to make the notorious ‘plastic mac’.

Internal plasticisation by copolymerising vinyl chloride with vinyl acetate was patented by EW Reid in 1928 and was used to mould long-playing and 45rpm gramophone records, replacing shellac for this purpose in the late 1940s.

In the 1950s with improvements to polymer production and stabilisation unplasticised (rigid) PVC was developed in grades which could be readily extruded or moulded.