Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Paul J. Flory
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1974
Born: 19 June 1910, Sterling, IL, USA
Died: 8 September 1985, Big Sur, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
Prize motivation: "for his fundamental achievements, both theoretical and experimental, in the physical chemistry of the macromolecules."
Prize share: 1/1
Plastic material is composed of polymers - very large molecules that take the form of long chains of smaller molecules. In the mid-1930s Paul Flory found that a polymer dissolved in a solvent becomes somewhat outstretched because of forces between the polymer's and the solvent's parts. When the temperature is lowered, the polymer contracts. Paul Flory established a temperature at which the forces balance one another. The polymer's length is then similar to its length in an undissolved state. He also defined a constant that summarizes the polymer solution's properties.