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Mark Miodownik describes the work of the chemist Leo Baekeland, who invented the plastic Bakelite. Baekeland discovered that carefully controlling the speed of the reaction between phenol and formaldehyde produced a mouldable resin. Mark describes the structure of Bakelite and how the links between molecules mean that it will not melt at higher temperatures (like celluloid did before it).
This clip is from:
First broadcast:
11 May 2012

Classroom Ideas

Use the clip to illustrate how plastics were invented and as a historical insight into the development of new materials. Throughout the clip, encourage students to take notes of the properties and uses of Bakelite. Following the clip, teacher could lead discussion as to the reasons why Bakelite never became as universally used as some other plastics.