Lucite - The Science Bit!

Saturday 13th February 2021 at 12:04

Lucite - The Science Bit!

Sometimes when you see something for the first time you think WOW! That’s what happened when I first saw lucite bags. I had no idea what lucite was, what to look for, what condition issues to look for, what was a fair price to pay, who were the best ‘names’ to look for. I just knew I loved them and I had to have one (or two, or three, or…..).

But what is lucite? Lucite is Poly(methyl methacrylate) PMMA or acrylic or acrylic glass. Lucite is a transparent thermoplastic. It is a synthetic organic compound of high molecular weight. It combines simple molecules of ester methyl methacrylate (monomer) into long chains (polymer) in a process called polymerisation – these can be affected by light or heat.  *Please note I am no scientist and this is where any talk of polymers ends!!

Lucite is the best acrylic on the market and also the most expensive.  It is lighter and clearer than glass. It is hard, water resistant and it can be carved as well as dyed.  It is extremely rare as it can be fully recycled.

Once I started researching and reading up on the history of lucite I found that lucite dates back further than I would have expected.

  • 1843 Acrylic Acid was first formulated
  • 1865 Methacrylic Acid was formulatedEarly
  • 1930's PMMA created by British Chemists Rowland Hill and John Crawford at ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries)
  • 1934 ICI trademarked Perspex 
  • 1933 German Otto Rohm of Rohm & Haas trademark Plexiglass
  • Commercialised in the late 1930’s
  • ICI is now Lucite International
  • 1930's DuPont, USA trademark Lucite

There are several trade names as well as lucite and these include Plexiglass, Acrylite and Perspex.

Lucite has a rich history and in my next blog I’ll be looking at how it developed, its role in World War II and its development to become known as Sculpture to Wear!