A timeless plastic
Placed next to each other, the 45 billion or so CDs that have been produced from Makrolon® since the birth of the compact disc in 1982 up to the beginning of 2003 would create a silver belt about 5,400,000 kilometers long. That is roughly equivalent to 14 times the mean distance between the earth and the moon.Statistics such as this provide impressive evidence of Makrolon®'s success, and this year, the high-tech plastic from Bayer MaterialScience celebrates its 50th birthday. But it is not only in the world of CDs and DVDs that Makrolon® has had such an impact. It has also made its mark in the electrical and electronics segment, the automotive industry, the sports and leisure sector, medical technology and the construction industry.
If we just take the Makrolon® sheets manufactured in 2002 for car ports, conservatories and other structures, and place them next to one another, they would cover an area equivalent to more than 3,000 soccer pitches (based on a sheet weight of 4.8 kg per sq. m. and the exclusive use of solid sheeting). Makrolon® more or less came into the world blessed with exceptional versatility and a unique combination of outstanding properties. In 1953, when Bayer chemist Dr. Hermann Schnell began performing what would turn out to be the decisive experiments, he did not allow himself to be dissuaded either by conventional thinking or by his colleagues' skepticism. Read here why other chemists were so dubious about the project, and what he himself said about the reasons for his success.
Since then, the multi-talented Makrolon® polymer has enjoyed an outstandingly successful career. As a typical product of the economic miracle, it accompanied the emergent Federal Republic of Germany in the form, for example, of electric hair curlers and cups and plates for family picnics. Used as security glazing, it withstood the protests of the extraparliamentary opposition at the end of the sixties, and later survived two oil crises. During German reunification, hits like "Lambada" from Kaoma and "Nothing compares 2 U" from Sinéad O'Connor blasted out from Makrolon® CDs. You will find the key milestones in this polymer’s unique career here.
Over the last 50 years, Makrolon® has repeatedly found new areas of application. Many of them never even existed when the plastic was invented, not even in the wildest dreams of the experts. Who could have suspected at that time – or even as late as 1970 – that CDs would soon revolutionize the music world? Or that 24,000 pages of DIN A4 text would fit onto just one of these small silver discs?
Today, the scientists and marketing experts from Bayer MaterialScience are confident that Makrolon® has plenty of life left in it yet. They are convinced that the plastic has what they call an "eternally young personality". Some of their visions are presented here; some of them are about to become reality and some of them possibly never will. In any case, the experience of the past teaches us that no one can predict what might be made of Makrolon® in the future.
Whenever there is an anniversary to celebrate, congratulations are called for. On behalf of many other people who owe something to this polycarbonate, Georg Hackl, triple Olympic winner in the bobsled competition, had this to say: "Congratulations! Makrolon® is a material for sports perfectionists. I always feel safe on the bob-run with my Makrolon® visor because it won't splinter even in the worst conceivable crash." If you would like to hear what other personalities from the worlds of sports, art, industry and science – and also the "man on the street" – have to say about the transparent high-tech plastic, just click here.