• Dr. Mohan Dewan assisted by Adv. Shubham Borkar

Accidental Inventions as the name suggests refer to the discovery or creation of something new or useful that was not intentionally sought after. Accidental inventions have played a significant role in shaping our world, from the discovery of penicillin to the creation of the microwave oven. In some cases, accidental inventions have even led to entire industries and new fields of research. These inventions often arise from unexpected or accidental circumstances, such as a laboratory mishap or a chance encounter. While not all accidental inventions may be successful or have significant impact, they serve as a reminder that innovation can come from unexpected sources and that sometimes the most ground-breaking discoveries can be the result of chance. In this Accidental Inventions series of articles we will be telling you about some of the lesser known accidental inventions.

The invention of Vulcanisation is one such case of serendipity!

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Vulcanization is a process of strengthening rubber by treating it with sulphur. The process was discovered by Charles Goodyear in the 19th century, and it revolutionized the rubber industry. However, what many people don't know is that vulcanization was actually an accidental discovery.

In the early 19th century, rubber was a relatively new material in Europe and North America. It was discovered in the Amazon Basin and brought back to Europe by explorers in the late 18th century. However, rubber had a major flaw: it was too soft and sticky to be used for most practical purposes.

Charles Goodyear was one of the many people who were trying to find a way to make rubber more useful. He had tried many different methods, but none of them had worked. Then, in 1839, he made a breakthrough. He accidentally spilled a mixture of rubber and sulphur on a hot stove. To his surprise, the rubber didn't melt and become sticky. Instead, it became hard and strong.

Goodyear had discovered vulcanization. He realized that by heating rubber with sulphur, he could make it stronger and more durable. Hence sulphur alone won’t do, the heat also plays a vital role, and it is only when rubber mixed with sulphur is heated it becomes stronger and durable. Hence the process was named Vulcanisation, as an ode to Lord Vulcan, the Roman God of Fire. Goodyear spent the next several years experimenting with different methods of vulcanization, trying to find the perfect formula.

The discovery of vulcanization was a turning point for the rubber industry. Before vulcanization, rubber was only used for a few specialized applications. But with vulcanization, rubber became much more versatile. It could be used to make everything from tires to waterproof clothing.

Despite the importance of his discovery, Goodyear never became wealthy from it. He spent most of his life in poverty, trying to perfect his vulcanization process. He died in 1860, just a few years before the rubber industry began to take off.

Today, vulcanization is still used to make everything from car tires to shoe soles.



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