Today marks what would be the 93rd birthday of the inventor of Styrofoam, Otis Ray McIntire.
Inventor: Otis Ray McIntire
Born August 24, 1918 – Died February 2, 1996
Invention: Styrofoam Brand Foam: Patent #: 2,450,436
Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008.
As with many great inventions, this one was developed partially by accident. McIntire worked for Dow Chemical Company during World War II, and part of his job was to design a material with the insulation properties of polystyrene that would be more rubber-like. In doing so, McIntire discovered that when he combined the polystyrene with isobutylene, bubbles of the latter formed in the polystyrene. This new foam was more flexible than polystyrene alone, as well as thirty times lighter!
While it was not quite the material that McIntire had hoped for, STYROFOAM was inexpensive to produce and also boasted moisture-resistance.
Since receiving its patent in 1944, STYROFOAM has been used in a variety of ways worldwide. It has become a primary brand of insulation for both homes and commercial buildings; STYROFOAM has proven to be effective in increasing energy efficiency as well as protecting against the elements.
But did you know that STYROFOAM has never been used to make coffee cups or coolers? The trademarked blue colored foam is formulated differently than the white foam that we typically associate with these products.
McIntire spent his entire career working for Dow Chemical. His positions included research director and director of technology. He retired in 1981.