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Syntheses Material Intermediates

Man-made materials, also known as synthesized materials, are materials artificially processed from different substances through chemical methods or polymerization. Their characteristics are different from raw materials, such as plastics and steel.Among the man-made materials, plastic, synthetic fiber and synthetic rubber are known as the three major organic synthesis technologies in the 20th century. Their appearance has greatly improved the living standards of the people, and their importance to the national economy and people’s livelihood is self-evident.

Type of Syntheses Material Intermediates

The first person who discovered the existence of plastic was the German chemist Bayer at the end of the 19th century. He once compounded phenol with formaldehyde to obtain a resin-like substance. Unfortunately, he didn’t know what it could be used for.
In 1907, the American industrial chemist Baekeland once again studied the reaction of phenol and formaldehyde, and added an appropriate amount of fillers, and found that the product was tough and had good insulation properties. Thus, in 1910, the first plastic product factory in history with an annual output of 1,000 tons was built. By 1939, the product had grown to more than 200,000 tons. Although vinyl chloride was discovered in 1912, it was made into plastic in 1932, and it was produced by the British company Benemen. In 1947, American chemists Gereriu and Kong Ning synthesized polystyrene. It was not until the 1950s that the German chemist Ziegler and the Italian chemist Nape invented new catalytic polymerization agents, which pushed the plastics manufacturing industry to its peak. Since then, high-performance plastic varieties have sprung up like bamboo shoots after a rain. The common ones are polypropylene, ABS, polysulfone, and polycarbonate. The world’s annual output has exceeded 60 million tons, which is equal to the total output of wood and cement.

Synthetic materials are materials that are compounded by two or more substances and have certain comprehensive properties. It is divided into structural composite materials and functional composite materials. Composite material is an emerging material developed with the advancement of material science and technology. Composite materials are a kind of promising emerging materials, which are widely used in aviation, aerospace, chemical, shipbuilding, automotive, electrical manufacturing and other industries.

As for synthetic fibers, they were first developed on the basis of transforming natural fibers.
In 1855, German chemist Antima first treated mulberry branches with concentrated nitric acid to obtain a fiber. Unfortunately, it was easy to flammable and could not be used. In 1884, the British chemist Swain used nitric acid and fiber to synthesize “safe rayon”, which was exhibited at the Paris Exposition in 1889 and was a sensation.
In 1935, American chemist Carozes first synthesized nylon-66 with hexylene glycol and adipic acid, and launched the world’s first synthetic fiber. In 1937, the German Organic Research Institute synthesized nylon-6.
In 1939, the Japanese chemist Ichiro Lou Tian synthesized nylon fiber that was resistant to water and heat. In 1940, the British chemist Dixon synthesized polyester fiber, which was put into production that year, with an output of 50,000 tons. Today, the output of synthetic fibers is increasing day by day, and the world’s annual output has reached 15 million tons, exceeding the output of natural fibers.

Synthetic rubber also started from imitating and modifying natural rubber.
In 1838, American worker Goodyi used turpentine, sulfur, and calcium carbonate to heat raw rubber at high temperatures to obtain rubber with excellent properties. Since then, rubber has become famous and has been widely used as tires and insulated wires. Due to the rapid development of the automobile and aircraft industries, the output of natural rubber is limited and cannot meet the increasing demand. Especially during the First World War, Germany was blocked by the British navy and could not obtain rubber from Southeast Asia and South America. It was in urgent need of substitutes to alleviate the urgent need. Therefore, synthetic rubber came into being. At that time, German chemists first used acetylene and acetone to synthesize 2,350 tons of 2,3-dimethylbutadiene rubber to meet the urgent needs of the war. In the 1930s after the war, scientists synthesized styrene butadiene rubber and nitrile rubber. Although the cost was higher than that of natural rubber, the quality was basically close to that of natural rubber. In 1932, the American chemist Newland first chlorinated and polymerized acetylene to obtain a-chloro-1,3-butadiene monomer, which was then polymerized into chloroprene rubber. It has the advantages of oxygen resistance, shock resistance, heat resistance, etc., and its performance has exceeded that of natural rubber. Since the 1950s, the output of synthetic rubber has more than doubled that of natural rubber, with an annual output of 6 million tons.

Syntheses Material Intermediates
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Differences Between Natural & Man-Made Materials

Natural materials are fundamentally different from man-made materials – the former comes from nature and the latter from scientific laboratories. Different types of materials have different applications and uses, whether daily or special. You will encounter all kinds of natural and man-made materials every day, even if you walk on the street.

  1. Origin
    Although all materials are derived from nature, natural materials are treated and processed less than man-made materials at some stage of their manufacturing process. Natural materials come directly from nature – cotton is harvested from cotton plants, corn is harvested from corn fields, and granite is mined from quarries. On the other hand, man-made materials undergo strict processing to change the materials and make them suitable for their intended use. Common man-made materials include plastics, which are used in everything from bottled drinks to clothing to construction.
  2. Durability
    Man made materials are usually much more durable than natural materials. In fact, the durability of man-made materials (such as plastics) is the core of the environmental protection campaign to reduce consumption and waste, because man-made materials will accumulate in landfills and quickly approach their capacity limit when they are not recycled. However, the life of natural materials is short, because these materials used to be alive and gradually die out over time. Wooden furniture, unless treated with varnish and stain, will rot as moisture seeps into its frame, and clothes made of natural materials will show holes and fade.
  3. Care and maintenance
    The maintenance of man-made materials requires less care and attention than natural materials. Man made materials are easily available because they are cheap, durable and strong – they can withstand rougher handling and are less prone to cracking and damage than natural materials. For example, when washing polyester clothes, you don’t need to pay attention to shrinkage than when washing cotton clothes, because this fabric is specially made and convenient for the wearer. If synthetic soaps, dyes or other cleaners are used to disinfect or treat the surface of natural materials, they may damage natural materials.
  4. Impact on the environment
    In addition to contributing to the growing number of landfills around the world, man-made materials also have a negative impact on the environment because they are unsustainable. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines sustainability as “policies and strategies that meet the current needs of society without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”. Petroleum based man-made products, including plastic series, are not sustainable products because they depend on the production and refining of petroleum, which is a limited natural resource.

More and more commercial companies are turning to sustainable materials, such as bamboo, to raise public awareness of environmental issues and reduce the impact of specific consumer goods on the earth. Bamboo is a kind of elastic natural material. It is easy to plant and grows rapidly. It will not damage the earth or occupy too many natural resources.

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