Friday, 22 July 2011

Plastics saves lives

During July 2010, whilst taking part in an endurance cycling event in America, Olympic gold medal winning rower James Cracknell was hit on the back of his head by the wing mirror of a truck travelling at 70 mph.
He was knocked off his bike; the damage to his brain changed his personality. His injuries were so severe that if he hadn't have been wearing one vital piece of equipment he would be dead. This piece of equipment is highly controversial many cycling races including the Tour de France insist on it being used and yet you see many cyclists on the road without one.

What saved James' life? A small piece of shock absorbing plastic - a simple piece of moulded expanded polystyrene - watch this video of James telling his own story to find out more:

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Did you know? # 7

Did you know that Bakelite was developed in 1907 by Belgium born chemist Leo Baekeland, that it was the first wholly synthetic plastic and was heralded as the material of 1000 uses?
Bakelite is a thermosetting plastic made from a compound of phenol formaldehyde and wood filler. It is formed into objects by the application of heat and pressure and once made cannot be melted. Its resistance to electrical current and heat means that it was and still is commonly used for knobs, switches and handles and its ability to be finished with a high shine meant that it was a popular choice for small items of furniture such as radio and television cabinets, heating appliances etc. This material lent itself readily to mass production and although the colour range was limited Bakelite was the material of choice for domestic as well as industrial applications.

A frequent expectation of summer visitors to MoDiP is to see something made of bakelite on display.  More often than not our temporary summer exhibition includes few or no examples of bakelite so in an attempt to address this and so as not to disappoint those who have made the effort to find us, this year we have put together a small display drawn from our own collection and from the Plastics Historical Society collection. 
Included in the display are objects as diverse as a set of stair carpet clips with Art Deco styling,

an electric foot warmer in the shape of a hot water bottle

and a shell cap from WW2.  These objects will be on display until the autumn.

Pam Langdown
(Collections Manager)