Casein plastic

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A plastic prepared from casein, a natural phosphorus-containing protein found in milk. While trying to make a waterproof coating in 1897, Adolph Spitteler and associate W. Krische of Germany discovered that casein becomes hard and insoluble when treated with formaldehyde. Casein plastics were used for small items such as buttons, beads, buckles, combs, fountain pens, umbrella handles, cutlery handles, and knitting needles. Casein plastics were often pigmented to simulate ivory, horn, jade, pearl, and tortoiseshell. In the 1930s, an Italian chemist, Antonio Ferretti developed a successful method to make casein plastic into fibers (see Lanital).


Casein plastic FTIR.PNG

Synonyms and Related Terms

casein formaldehyde; milkstone; plástico con base de caseína (Esp.); plastique à base de caséine (Fr.); Lactoid (England in 1904); Aladdinite (U.S. in 1919); Galalith (Deut.); Galalite (It.); Erinoid (Br.); Syrolit (Ire.); Karolith; Kyloid; Ameroid; Dorcasine; Casolith

Other Properties

Insoluble in water, acid

Burns with odor of burnt hair.

Hazards and Safety

Contact with water, acids or alkalis may cause crazing.

Susceptible to biological attack.

Burns slowly and brightly in air, but extinguishes with removal of flame source.


General Characteristics of Polymers

Physical Properties for Selected Thermoset Resins

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • Pam Hatchfield, Pollutants in the Museum Environment, Archetype Press, London, 2002
  • M.Kaufman, The First Century of Plastics, The Plastics and Rubber Institute, London, 1963 Comment: gives 1897 as discovery, 1899 as German patent and 1900 as U.S. patent
  • Website address 1 Comment: - first made in Krische and Spitteler
  • Website address 2 Comment: - discovered in 1897
  • The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996 Comment: "Plastics"
  • F. Kidd, Brushmaking Materials, Bristish Brush Manufacturers, London, 1957

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