July 3, 2018

Bakelite is a plastic that is used for making many products, ranging from telephones, electrical gadgets, jewelry, to saucepan handles. It has been aptly named as the ‘Material of a Thousand Uses’. The trademark rights for this plastic are owned by a German company called Bakelite AG, in many countries. Let us check out the various properties and uses of Bakelite.

Bakelite is the trade name for phenol formaldehyde resin.

Its chemical name is polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride.

It is a thermosetting plastic. A thermosetting plastic is a plastic that liquefies and is malleable when heated. Then it becomes permanently hard and rigid when cooled. Thus, it can be used to make a variety of items.

It does not conduct electricity.

It is resistant to heat, and is nonflammable.

It is also resistant to chemical action.

It is the first synthetic plastic that was formulated in the ‘Age of Plastics’. Leo Baekeland is the chemist who developed it in the year 1907, in New York.

It is a product of the elimination reaction of phenol with formaldehyde. It is a resin (a substance belonging to a class of solid or semisolid viscous substances, obtained either as exudations from certain plants or prepared by polymerization of simple molecules).

The dielectric constant of Bakelite ranges from 4.4 to 5.4.

Owing to its resistance to heat, electricity, and chemical action, today, Bakelite is used to make:

  • Bases and sockets for light bulbs
  • Vacuum tubes
  • Electrical components
  • Automobile distributor caps and other insulators
  • Insulation of wires, brake pads, and some select automobile parts
  • Jewelry
  • Clocks
  • Radios
  • Toys, and game pieces used in chess, poker, billiards, dominoes, mahjong tiles, checkers, etc
  • Kitchenware such as canisters, saucepan handles, etc.Saxophone mouthpieces
  • Whistles
  • Cameras
  • Electric guitars
  • Telephone handsets
  • Appliance casings
  • Pipe stems
  • Buttons


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