The first plastics


What was the role of TU Delft in the development of plastics? Information specialist Jorden Esser went searching in the archives of the TU Delft Library.

The modern plastics industry began with Bakelite, which was invented by the Belgian Leo Baekeland. He filed the patent in 1907. The oldest journal in the TU Delft Library in the field of plastics is Kunststoffe, which was launched in 1911. Unfortunately, it does not contain any truly historical contributions from Delft. According to the chemical engineering department (Applied Sciences), the ‘plastic age’ dawned in the 1930s. The first Delft publication (1933) listed in the TU Delft catalogue is ‘Fabricage van bakeliet’ [The fabrication of Bakelite] by A. R. Veldman. In 1937, this researcher wrote a dissertation entitled ‘De constitutie en de fabricage der phenol-formaldehyd-harsen’ [The constitution and fabrication of phenol-formaldehyde resins]. A symposium on plastics was held in January 1944. According to Web of Science, the first TU Delft article to contain the term ‘plastics’ was published as recently as 1977: ‘Injection moulding of plastics: Some ideas about the relationship between mould filling and birefringence’
by H. Janeschitzkriegl.

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