Fans of epoxy love the product due to its durability, versatility, and ease of use in different types of artwork. But where did epoxy resin come from? How did we come to use this material for everything from art to sealing materials to making large-scale molds?
Let’s find out! But first, let’s touch on what exactly epoxy resin is.
What is Epoxy Resin?
Epoxy itself is simply cured epoxy resin. When resin and a curing agent are combined, a chemical reaction occurs and the materials begin to harden.
Epoxy resin itself is a compound made of various types of bisphenol and epichlorohydrin. Many common art-based epoxy resins are made of acetone and phenol. Phenol was first discovered in coal tar-- though nowadays, scientists extract phenol from petroleum.
When Did People Start Using Epoxy Resin?
Resin has been used for quite a long time. Resin materials from plants have been used for everything from art supplies to wood preservation to fragrances. The earliest evidence we have of the use of resin dates back to Ancient Greece.
Chemical resins and epoxy resin, specifically, has not been around very long. In fact, it took a chemist from the 1930’s to discover the chemical reaction needed to create epoxy resin.
The condensation reaction of epoxides and amines can be traced back to the 1930’s. A german man named Paul Schlack patented epoxy resin in 1934. Around the 1930’s and 1940’s different discovery claims over bisphenol-A-based epoxy resins began popping up. One such claim came from Swiss chemist Pierre Castan, who became one of the foremost pioneers of epoxy resins alongside German chemist Paul Schlack.
Castan initially started creating synthetic resins for things like dental prosthetics. From there, he developed truth epoxy resin and a combination of epichlorohydrin and diphenols and promoted them as suitable materials for varnish and adhesive purposes.
Castan’s work with epoxy resin was licensed by the chemical company Ciba, Ltd. in Switzerland. Ciba eventually became one the biggest epoxy resin producers in the world. In 1946, a chemist named Sylvan Greenlee on behalf of Devoe & Raynolds Company patented a new type of resin that was derived from bisphenol-A and epichlorohydrin.
Once epoxy resin began taking off for its industrial uses in the forties and fifties, its use in art became similarly popular. Artists began mixing epoxy resin with pigment and used it as a painting medium that was meant to be poured in layers. Jewelers and mixed media artists began using the compound for locking in and preserving natural materials, decoupage, countertop art, and tabletop art.
Today, epoxy resin is widely available at various hardware stores and art supply stores. While the chemical composition of epoxy resin hasn’t changed much, it is now derived from materials other than coal tar.