Celluloid

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Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents. Generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic, it was first created as Parkesine in 1862 [1] and as Xylonite in 1869, before being registered as Celluloid in 1870. Celluloid is easily molded and shaped, and it was first widely used as an ivory replacement. Celluloid is highly flammable and also easily decomposes, and is no longer widely used. Its most common uses today are in table tennis balls and guitar picks.[2]

Contents

History

Nitrocellulose

Nitrocellulose-based plastics slightly predate celluloid. Collodion, invented in 1848 and used as a wound dressing and emulsion for photographic plates, is dried to a celluloid-like film.

Alexander Parkes

The first celluloid as a bulk material for forming objects was made in 1855 in Birmingham, England, by Alexander Parkes, who was never able to see his invention reach full fruition, after his firm went bankrupt due to scale-up costs.[3] Parkes patented his discovery after realising a solid residue remained after evaporation of the solvent from photographic collodion.

Parkes patented it as a clothing waterproof for woven fabrics in the same year. Later in 1862, Parkes showcased Parkesine at the Great Exhibition in London, where he was awarded a bronze medal for his efforts. The introduction of Parkesine is generally regarded as the birth of the plastics industry.[3] Parkes mixed cellulose nitrate with camphor, producing a hard, flexible, and transparent material. Cellulose nitrate was dissolved in a small measure of solvent, this was then heated and rolled on a purpose-built machine which extracted a proportion of the solvent. Finally, the use of pressure or dyes completed the manufacturing process. In 1866, Parkes tried again with his invention, and he created a company to manufacture and market Parkesine, but this failed in 1868 after trying to cut costs to enable further manufacture.

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