The material. Bakelite, commercialized in 1909, triggered a revolution in product design. It was stiff, fairly strong, could (to a muted degree) be col­ored, and, above all, was easy to mold. Earlier products that were hand­crafted from woods, metals, or exotics such as ivory, could now be molded quickly and cheaply. At one time the production of phenolics exceeded that of PE, PS, and PVC combined. Now, although the ration has changed, phe – nolics still have a unique value. They are stiff, are chemically stable, have good electrical properties, are fire-resistant, and are easy to mold—and they are cheap. Thermosetting phenolics are recyclable but by a different means than that for thermoplastics. Molded phenolic, ground into a fine powder, can be added to the raw material stream. Four percent to 12% ground phe­nolic does not degrade properties.

Phenolics are good insulators and resist heat and chemical attack exceptionally well, making them a good choice for electrical switchgear like this distributor cap.

Ecoproperties: material

Annual world production

1.0 X 107

– 1.1 X 107



*2.5 X 108

– 2.5 X 108


Embodied energy, primary production


– 95


CO2 footprint, primary production


– 3.12


Water usage


– 282


Ecoproperties: processing

Polymer molding energy


– 13.9


Polymer molding CO2


– 1.1



Recycle fraction in current supply


– 1



Typical uses. Electrical parts—sockets, switches, connectors, general indus­trial, water-lubricated bearings, relays, pump impellers, brake pistons, brake pads, microwave cookware, handles, bottles tops, coatings, adhesives, bear­ings, foams, and sandwich structures.

Updated: October 10, 2015 — 3:23 pm