The key difference between bakelite and melamine is that bakelite is a thermosetting phenol-formaldehyde resin whereas melamine is an amine organic compound.
What is Bakelite?
Bakelite is the first plastic made from synthetic components. Bakelite is a thermosetting phenol–formaldehyde resin. This substance is formed from the condensation reaction of phenol and formaldehyde. The material was discovered and developed by the chemist Leo Baekeland, and it was patented in 1909. This discovery was revolutionary because it had many different and important applications in many areas.
The production of bakelite is a multistep process that begins with the heating of phenol and formaldehyde in the presence of a catalyst. Typically, HCl, zinc chloride, or ammonia base are used as the catalyst here. This reaction forms a liquid condensation product named Bakelite A. It is soluble in alcohol, acetone, and phenol. Upon further heating, this liquid tends to become partially soluble and becomes an insoluble hard gum. When using high temperatures for this production, it can produce foam. Placing the last condensation product into an egg-shaped Bakelizer that can suppress the foaming, which results in a substance that is extremely hard, infusible, and insoluble.
There are many important properties of bakelite. For example, we can mould this material, but it cannot be moulded easily, and moulding is irreversible, and it has a decreased production time. Moreover, these mouldings are very smooth and can retain their shape. In addition, the material is resistant to electricity, heat, scratches, and solvents.
What is Melamine?
Melamine is an organic compound having the chemical formula C3H6N6. It appears as a white solid compound that is a trimer of cyanamide and contains a 1,3,5-triazine skeleton. Similar to cyanimide, this compound also has about 67% nitrogen by mass. The crystal structure of this substance is monoclinic.
This name came into fame in the last few years due to the illegal addition of melamine into some food products with the intention of increasing the apparent protein content. However, ingestion of melamine can lead to reproductive damage, damages to the kidney and bladder; it even causes bladder cancers. Moreover, this substance is an irritant when inhaled or when it comes into contact with the skin or eyes.
Despite its harmful side effects, it has many useful applications. When combined with formaldehyde, melamine is useful to produce melamine resins, which are characteristically durable thermosetting plastics used in high-pressure decorative laminates, e.g. Formica. Furthermore, melamine foam is important as an insulating material, a soundproofing material and as a polymeric cleaning product, e.g. Magic Eraser, etc. In addition, this substance and its salts are useful as fire-retardant additives in paints, plastics and paper.
What is the Difference Between Bakelite and Melamine?
Bakelite is a thermosetting plastic. Melamine is not plastic, but upon combining with formaldehyde, it gives a characteristically durable thermosetting material melamine resin. The key difference between bakelite and melamine is that bakelite is a thermosetting phenol-formaldehyde resin, whereas melamine is an amine organic compound. Moreover, bakelite is used for manufacturing electrical switches and machine parts of electrical systems, organic synthesis reactions, etc., while melamine is used to produce melamine resins which are characteristically durable thermosetting plastics that are useful in high-pressure decorative laminates.
The below infographic lists the differences between bakelite and melamine in tabular form for side by side comparison
Summary – Bakelite vs Melamine
Bakelite and melamine are industrially important organic compounds. Bakelite is the first plastic made from synthetic components, which include phenol and formaldehyde. The key difference between bakelite and melamine is that bakelite is a thermosetting phenol-formaldehyde resin, whereas melamine is an amine organic compound. Bakelite is important in manufacturing electrical switches and machine parts of electrical systems, organic synthesis reactions, etc. while melamine is used to produce melamine resins which are characteristically durable thermosetting plastics that are useful in high-pressure decorative laminates
1. “Bakelite – Structure, Monomers, Preparation, Properties, Uses.” BYJUS, BYJU’S, 25 Sept. 2020.
1. “3-D Structure of Bakelite” By JohnSRoberts99 – File:Bakelit Struktur.png by MarkusZi (GFDL) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Melamine dinnerware” By Dwight Burdette – Own work (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia