History of Epoxy

The versatility of epoxy compounds is astounding. Its numerous uses range from coatings, adhesives, and electrical insulation to composite materials used in carbon fiber and fiberglass reinforcements. Epoxies can be produced with a broad range of properties and provide excellent adhesion, resistance to chemicals and heat, and electrical insulation.

Epoxy has been around for over 100 years. In the early 1900’s Russian chemists were the first to begin synthesizing epoxy compounds. The first commercial attempts to synthesize epoxy in the United States were made starting in 1927.

The first commercial attempts to prepare resins from epichlorohydrin were made in 1927, in the U.S. Credit for the first synthesis of bisphenol-A-based epoxy resins is shared by Dr. Pierre Castan of  Switzerland and Dr. S.O. Greenlee of the United States, in 1936.

Dr. Castan's work was licensed by Ciba, Ltd. of Switzerland, which went on to become one of the three major epoxy resin producers worldwide. Ciba's epoxy business was spun off and sold in the late 1990s, and it is now the Advanced Materials business unit of Huntsman Corporation of the United States.

Initially epoxy was used in the marine and industrial industry. Often, epoxy coatings were (and still are) used as a primer to enhance the adhesion of paints that are applied as a final coating to hulls and decks. Epoxies are also used to protect and make repairs to the internal surface of hulls.

Currently, the epoxy industry is made up of roughly 50–100 manufacturers of basic or commodity epoxy resins and hardeners. The commodity epoxy manufacturers typically do not sell epoxy resins in a form usable by smaller end users. For this reason, other companies purchase epoxy raw materials from the major producers and then produce (blend, modify, or otherwise customize) epoxy systems from the raw materials. These companies are known as "formulators." The majority of the epoxy systems sold are produced by these formulators, which make up over 60 percent of the dollar value of the epoxy market.

During the 1950’s the use of epoxy expanded to include woodwork, building construction, and aerospace. Often in building construction and woodwork epoxy is used as a structural adhesive. Epoxies can be made flexible or rigid, transparent or opaque, or fast or slow setting. Compared to other adhesives, epoxies are more heat and chemical resistant. In aerospace applications epoxy is used as a structural matrix material that is then reinforced by fiber or as structural glue.