Polymers for a clear, transparent view


The roof of the Munich Olympic Stadium made of PLEXIGLAS®, 1972

The beginnings of PLEXIGLAS® date back to 1901, when Dr. Otto Röhm received his doctorate on "On Polymerization Products of Acrylic Acid" and since then has pursued the idea of making this chemistry commercially viable. After the young company, which he had founded with his friend Otto Haas in 1907 for the production of enzymatic products, generated sufficient profits for research purposes, Röhm put together a team of researchers that had been working on the synthesis and polymerization of acrylic and later methacrylic acid since the 1910s. The team systematically investigated the range of properties of the acrylic plastic family and developed LUGLAS, a transparent, rubber-like material, a safety glass for windshields. With this product, the company Röhm & Haas founded its plastics division.

After the market establishment of LUGLAS, the plastics researchers concentrated on the field of methyl methacrylates. This is where Dr. Otto Röhm and Dr. Walter Bauer, head of the research laboratory, take the key development steps on the way to PLEXIGLAS,® which was launched on the market in 1933. Röhm & Haas thus created a wide range of products for various applications, for example in automotive and aircraft construction, but also for household items, jewellery and musical instruments. At the 1937 Paris World's Fair, PLEXIGLAS® won the Grand Prix and a gold medal.

With the Nazi regime's interest in PLEXIGLAS®, its significance for everyday objects of civilian life soon receded into the background. The plastic was now mainly used in the armaments industry for the glazing of aircraft cockpits of fighters and bombers. This use led to a rapid upswing of Röhm & Haas. The number of employees increased tenfold. In order to maintain production, the company increasingly resorted to prisoners of war and forced laborers. In addition, in the wake of great demand and under the influence of the National Socialist government, new production sites were set up in Mittenwalde near Berlin and Worms on the Rhine.

After the Second World War, many civilian applications were opened up for PLEXIGLAS®. From then on, the material was used in illuminated advertising, roof glazing and façade design. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was also used in the sanitary sector and in greenhouse glazing, as well as in various areas such as furniture construction, communication technology, trade fair construction or optoelectronics. In addition to sheets, tubes and rods, PLEXIGLAS® molding compounds played a central role as a starting product for all injection molding and extrusion applications.

The company Röhm & Haas, renamed Röhm GmbH in 1971 after the Haas family left the group, became part of Hüls AG in 1989 and, after several mergers, was absorbed into Evonik Industries AG. In 2019, the area of methacrylate activities―and thus also PLEXIGLAS®―was spun off and has since operated as an independent company, for which the traditional name Röhm GmbH was chosen.