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All About PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

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Aimee is a digital marketing specialist who loves all things history. She enjoys writing content about topics she finds interesting.

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PVC is short for polyvinyl chloride, it’s a lightweight, rigid plastic used for many purposes and in many industries. It can also be manufactured in a flexible, plasticised form. In this article, I’m going to talk about how it was first created, how the material became more sought after and the uses we have for PVC now.

How PVC was Made

PVC was first prepared by the French chemist, Henri Victor Regnault in 1835 after he accidentally exposed a new compound to sunlight but the historical credit of the invention has mostly been given to the German chemist, Eugen Baumann, in 1872 when he noted white flakes from vinyl chloride after an experiment.

In 1912, Friedrich Heinrich August Klatte used sunlight to polymerise vinyl chloride creating PVC, he then patented his creation.

Experimenting with PVC

Klatte did patent PVC, but he never seemed to take it any further. Companies around the world got wind of this material and began experimenting. Natural rubber was extremely expensive and the company B.F. Goodrich needed a way of getting costs down so they hired scientist Waldo Semon to develop an alternative.

His project was threatened by abandonment due to the recession in the 1920s, this is when he came up with the idea that started the PVC industry - using PVC as a water-resistant coating for fabrics. Demand for his idea peaked at the start of World War II – PVC was then used as an insulator for wiring on military ships.

The Rise of PVC

By the 1950s, PVC products were being rapidly produced by companies all over the world. Companies began to find more innovative uses for the material and developed it further. PVC’s durability was improved, allowing it’s entrance into the building & construction industry, it’s resistance to light, chemicals and corrosion made it one of the best materials to work with.

How We Use PVC Now

Building & Construction

PVC is still used in the construction industry due to its strength & durability, some common uses for PVC in construction include:

  • Water pipes – PVC is used in pipework due to its ability to create leak-free pipes which conserves energy and water. These PVC pipes aren’t prone to erosion and are able to withstand any environmental stress.
  • Building materials – PVC is used for cladding, windows, fencing, decking, roofing & flooring. It doesn’t require frequent painting and is a lot stronger and more resistant than other materials.
  • Wiring – PVC isn’t just used for outside a building; it’s also used for inside’s walls. Because of its ability to withstand conditions, it’s one of the materials that is most trusted for electrical wiring.


PVC Strip Curtains

Other uses of PVC include the manufacture of PVC strip curtains – the material offers great insulation properties and provides a barrier against fumes, dust & insects. These curtains are present in many industries and are usually installed in warehouses, walk-in freezers and factories. They retain temperature, whether hot or cold, in each room.

Waste Handling

PVC pipes are used for waste handling and control, they’re used in drains and vents to remove sewer on an industry level but are also used in sinks and toilets. PVC is the best material for this due to its abrasion resistance and strength.

Healthcare

PVC has a crucial role in the healthcare industry in the form of dispensing life-saving medicine through IV bags and medical tubing. The modern blood bag is made out of PVC as it’s flexible and unbreakable.

Clothing

Because of PVC’s waterproof properties, the material is ideal for raincoats, boots, wetsuits and more. Making it useful in the clothing industry.

Automotive

Some examples of PVC being used in the automotive industry include interior door panels, sun visors, seat coverings, underbody coatings and mud flaps.


As you can see, the invention and breakthrough of PVC lead to the development and improvement of many everyday and industry products. This is why it’s estimated that around 40 million tons of PVC is produced each year and it’s one of the most used plastics.

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