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Polyethylene or polyethene (abbreviated PE) is a thermoplastic produced by the polymerization of ethene. It belongs to the group of polyolefins, known under the trade names Alathon, Hostalen, Lupolen, Vestolen, Bralén, etc. Annual world production is approximately 60 million. tons.

 Polyethylene was first prepared in 1898 by the chemist Hans von Peckmann by heating diazomethane. Eugen Bamberger and Friedrich Tschirner discovered that the resulting waxy substance consists only of methylene groups –CH2– and named it polymethylene.

The industrially applicable synthesis of polyethylene was discovered by accident only in 1993 by chemists E. Fawcett and R. Gibson at ICI Chemicals. After creating a very high pressure (approx. 140-170 MPa) in the mixture of ethylene and benzaldehyde, a thin white layer of polyethylene was formed on the inner walls of the autoclave. Because the reaction was initiated by oxygen that penetrated the apparatus, it was not possible to successfully reproduce this experiment for a long time. It was not until two years later that Michael Perrin succeeded, laying the foundations for the industrial production of high-pressure polyethylene (HDPE), which began in 1939.

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