You can’t easily tell one plastic from another simply by looking at it, but most of us would easily recognize polystyrene in its foam form called expanded polystyrene or by its (Dow Chemical Company) trademarked name Styrofoam. Polystyrene, as its name suggests, is made from the monomer styrene. Styrene, a sweet smelling oily liquid, was first produced by M. Bonastre in 1831 via distillation of storax or styrax balsam, which is the resin of the Liquidambar genus of trees. Styrene, whose systematic name is Ethenylbenzene, is now one of most widely manufactured chemicals at around a 35 million tonnes annual production and growing at around 5% per year. It is now usually made by dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene. Ethylbenzene occurs naturally in petroleum, but most is produced by combining benzene and ethylene.
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