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History of Acrylic Glass

Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), also known as acrylic or acrylic glass is a transparent thermoplastic often used in sheet form as a lightweight or shatter-resistant alternative to glass.

Although not a type of familiar silica-based glass, the substance, like many thermoplastics, is often technically classified as a type of glass hence it’s occasional historic designation as acrylic “glass”.

The material was developed in 1928 in several different laboratories by many chemists such as William Chalmers, Otto Röhm and Walter Bauer.

The first acrylic acid was created in 1843. Methacrylic acid, derived from acrylic acid, was formulated in 1865. The reaction between methacrylic acid and methanol results in the ester methyl methacrylate. In 1877 the German chemist Wilhelm Rudolph Fittig discovered the polymerization process that turns methyl methacrylate into polymethyl methacrylate.

Acrylic sheet was commercially produced in 1936 as safety glass. During World War II both Allied and Axis forces used acrylic glass for submarine periscopes and aircraft windshields, canopies, and gun turrets. Airplane pilots whose eyes were damaged by flying shards of PMMA fared much better than those injured by standard glass, demonstrating the much-increased compatibility between human tissue and PMMA as compared to glass.

Today acrylics are used in many applications in our daily life such as: signage, glazing, façade, bathtub, barrier, channel letters, trophy, aquarium and much more.