DATES OF SCIENTIFIC BREAKTRHOUGHS: HOW PROGRESS CHANGED OUR ATTITUDE TO FUEL
In the last two centuries mankind has not only learned how to heat and illuminate its homes with hydrocarbon raw materials, but has also created a new world of substances which nature has not created or not secreted in pure form. People have learned all this through the work and genius of their scientists. History has thousands of names and dates, but we will choose several of them, perhaps not that well known, but no less important than others.
On June 16, 1825, the British physicist Michael Faraday told the Royal Scientific Society of his tests with stone coal and oil, according to which he tried to secret combustible substance from them. During those experiments he secreted one substance with a strong and pleasant odor. This is how benzene was discovered, which, among other things, is an important raw material in the production of polymers nowadays. Faraday's discovery gave rise to a new branch of science called organic chemistry, and many Faraday's followers began to wonder what other useful substances could be secreted out of oil.
On December 16, 1883, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach obtained a patent for their internal combustion engine. It was the world's first four-stroke gasoline engine. Petrol as the cheapest and, above all, easily evaporating fuel was chosen for the new engine. On August 29, 1885, the companions tested the first motorcycle in the world driven by that engine. However, it took about 30 years for gasoline to be regarded as the best fuel for automobiles and motorcycles.
On November 27, 1891, the Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov obtained patent No. 12926 of the Russian Empire for continuous thermal cracking of oil. This process made it possible to obtain more light fractions from the same amount of oil than during direct distillation. Shukhov was ahead of his time because there were still very few consumers for gasoline. That is why William Barton patented the same process again in 1912, but it was in the United States. The priority decision was adopted in favor of Shukhov in 1923 by the International Patent Court in the Hague. And in 1934 the patriarch of the world oil industry stood at the opening of the Soviet cracking factory in Baku, where his ideas were implemented.
On December 11, 1905, American scientists Hamilton Cady and David McFarland finally established the composition of amazing noncombustible natural gas sent to them for analysis from the Dexter field in south-east Kansas.
It was found that gas, which would not ignite, contained only 15% of methane fuel and 72 % of non-combustible nitrogen. But most importantly, it contained almost 2% of unique gas called helium. This is how Cady and McFarland found the richest source of this gas, without which we would not have any modern high technology today. And natural gas itself was regarded as another source of raw materials for the chemical industry.
On March 27, 1933 British researchers Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson accidentally created a polymer, now known as polyethylene, when experimenting with oil gases. At first the attitude to this polymer was rather calm, and scientists experimented with choosing the best method for its production. By 1938, it had become clear that it could be used as wire insulation, and then it was found that it was radio-frequency-transparent. This material was of interest to radar designers, and all information about its production became classified.
The era of polyethylene began after the end of World War II. There was a variety of polyethylene associated with the peculiarities of its production technologies. Polyethylene became the most popular plastic because of its relative strength, stability, and biological safety. Nowadays this is the most popular polymer. It is produced in more than 75 million tonnes per year, and this volume grows.
On July 29, 1941, John Whinfield and James Dickson patented polyethylene terephthalate. This substance is known as polyester, dacron, mylar and under many other names. It is from this material plastic cups and bottles, sails and lingerie, dresses and costumes are made. None of polymers is so deeply embedded in our life as polyester, which in 1979 also appeared in its yet another form as soft tender fleece. It keeps company with natural fibers like wool and cotton and makes them solid and practical. July 29th is a day that can be celebrated by oilmen, chemists and porters, together with the athletes and packaging manufacturers.
On January 18, 1972, a group of Soviet scientists from State Research Institute of Biosynthesis of Protein Substances, with the assistance of colleagues from the GDR, submitted an application for an invention for the production of food protein from natural gas (methane) using natural crops of methane-consuming micro-organisms. The author's certificate was published only four years later, in 1984, after which the commercial production of the product began. It was produced until 1994. In the following years this technology was improved in Denmark, Norway and the United States of American. It has now been approved as a technology for the production of fodder in the EU, and Russia is working on its improvement.