IELTS Academic Reading Practice 28

 
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This reading practice simulates one part of the IELTS Academic Reading test. You should spend about twenty minutes on it. Read the passage and answer questions 1-14.

Questions 1-7

Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer in the reading passage? In boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet, write

YES   if the statement reflects the claims of the writer
NO   if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN   if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

1. Baekeland's invention is a cheaper alternative to other types of plastics.
2. Baekeland's main scientific contribution was his discovery of the Bakelite material.
3. Modern-day plastic preparation is based on the same principles as that patented in 1907.
4. Designers of objects made with Bakelite had to work within the limitations of the material.
5. The facility with which the object could be removed from the mould does not influence the design of Bakelite objects.
6. The style which became popular in the 1930’s was related to the process of making Bakelite.
7. Retailers advertised Bakelite kitchen goods as being clean and less likely to make people sick.
Questions 8-11

Answer the questions below.

Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 8-11 on your answer sheet.

8. What does “plassien” mean in Greek?

9. Which of his inventions originally made Baekeland wealthy?

10. What are the two substances combined initially in the process of making Bakelite?

11. What technical requirements of making Bakelite should designers of Bakelite objects consider?

Questions 12-14

Complete the summary below.  

Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in 12-14 on your answer sheet.

Behaving in a similar way to candlewax, some plastics are , meaning they melt under heat and can be moulded into new forms. Bakelite was unique because it was the first material to be both entirely  in origin, and thermosetting. There were several factors contributing to the development of early plastics in the nineteenth century, among them the great advances that had been made in the field of and the search for alternatives to diminishing supplies of natural resources like ivory.


Answer Sheet
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The Birth of Modern Plastics

The term plastic comes from the Greek plassein, meaning “to mold.” Some plastics are derived from natural sources, some are semi-synthetic (the result of chemical action on a natural substance), and some are entirely synthetic, that is, chemically engineered from the constituents of coal or oil. Some are “thermoplastic,” which means that, like candle wax, they melt when heated and can then be reshaped. Others are “thermosetting,” like eggs, meaning that they cannot revert to their original viscous state, and their shape is permanently fixed.

In 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian scientist working in New York, discovered and patented a revolutionary new synthetic material. His invention, which he named “Bakelite,” was of enormous technological importance, and effectively launched the modern plastics industry. Bakelite had the distinction of being the first totally synthetic thermosetting plastic.

The history of today's plastics begins with the discovery of a series of semi-synthetic thermoplastic materials in the mid-nineteenth century. The driving force behind the development of these early plastics was generated by a number of factors, those being immense technological progress in the domain of chemistry, coupled with wider cultural changes, and finally the pragmatic need to find acceptable substitutes for dwindling supplies of luxury materials such as tortoiseshell and ivory.

Baekeland's interest in plastics began in 1885 when, as a young chemistry student in Belgium, he embarked on research into phenolic resins, the group of sticky substances produced when phenol (carbolic acid) combines with an aldehyde (a volatile fluid similar to alcohol). He soon abandoned the subject, however, only returning to it some years later. By 1905 he was a wealthy New Yorker, having recently made his fortune with the invention of a new photographic paper. While Baekeland had been busily amassing dollars, some advances had been made in the development of plastics. The years 1899 and 1900 had seen the patenting of the first semi-synthetic thermosetting material that could be manufactured on an industrial scale. In purely scientific terms, Baekeland's major contribution to the field is not so much the actual discovery of the material to which he gave his name, but rather the method by which a reaction between phenol and formaldehyde could be controlled, thus making plastic production possible a commercial basis. On July 13 1907, Baekeland took out his famous patent describing the preparation of synthetic thermosetting plastic, the basic principles of which are still in use today.

The original patent outlined a three-stage process, in which phenol and formaldehyde (from wood or coal) were initially combined in a vacuum inside a large egg-shaped kettle. The result was a resin known as Novalak, which became soluble and malleable when heated. The resin was allowed to cool in shallow trays until it hardened, and then broken up and ground into powder. Other substances were then introduced, including fillers, such as wood flour, asbestos or cotton, which increase strength and. moisture resistance, catalysts (substances to speed up the reaction between two chemicals without joining to either) and hexa, a compound of ammonia and formaldehyde which supplied the additional formaldehyde necessary to form a thermosetting resin. This resin was then left to cool and harden, and ground up a second time. The resulting granular powder was raw Bakelite, ready to be made into a vast range of manufactured objects. In the last stage, the heated Bakelite was poured into a hollow mold of the required shape and subjected to extreme heat and pressure; thereby 'setting' its form for life.

The design of Bakelite objects, everything from earrings to television sets, was governed to a large extent by the technical requirements of the molding process. The object could not be designed so that it was locked into the mold and therefore difficult to extract. A common general rule was that objects should taper towards the deepest part of the mold, and if necessary the product was molded in separate pieces. Molds had to be carefully designed so that the molten Bakelite would flow evenly and completely into the mold. Sharp corners proved impractical and were thus avoided, giving rise to the smooth, “streamlined” style popular in the 1930s. The thickness of the walls of the mold was also crucial. Thick walls took longer to cool and harden, a factor which had to be considered by the designer in order to make the most efficient use of machines.

Baekeland's invention, although treated with disdain in its early years, went on to enjoy an unparalleled popularity which lasted throughout the first half of the twentieth century. It became the wonder product of the new world of industrial expansion, known as “the material of a thousand uses.” Being both non-porous and heat-resistant, Bakelite kitchen goods were promoted as being germ-free and sterilizable. Electrical manufacturers were drawn to its insulating properties and consumers everywhere relished its dazzling array of shades, delighted that they were now, at last, no longer restricted to the wood tones and drab browns of the prep fistic era. It then fell from favor again during the 1950s and was despised and destroyed in vast quantities. Recently, however, it has been experiencing something of a renaissance, with renewed demand for original Bakelite objects in the collectors' marketplace, and museums, societies, and dedicated individuals once again appreciating the style and originality of this innovative material.

Reading Passage Vocabulary
The Birth of Modern Plastics

The term plastic comes from the Greek plassein, meaning “to mold.” Some plastics are derived from natural sources, some are semi-synthetic (the result of chemical action on a natural substance), and some are entirely synthetic, that is, chemically engineered from the constituents of coal or oil. Some are “thermoplastic,” which means that, like candle wax, they melt when heated and can then be reshaped. Others are “thermosetting,” like eggs, meaning that they cannot revert to their original viscous state, and their shape is permanently fixed.

In 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian scientist working in New York, discovered and patented a revolutionary new synthetic material. His invention, which he named “Bakelite,” was of enormous technological importance, and effectively launched the modern plastics industry. Bakelite had the distinction of being the first totally synthetic thermosetting plastic.

The history of today's plastics begins with the discovery of a series of semi-synthetic thermoplastic materials in the mid-nineteenth century. The driving force behind the development of these early plastics was generated by a number of factors, those being immense technological progress in the domain of chemistry, coupled with wider cultural changes, and finally the pragmatic need to find acceptable substitutes for dwindling supplies of luxury materials such as tortoiseshell and ivory.

Baekeland's interest in plastics began in 1885 when, as a young chemistry student in Belgium, he embarked on research into phenolic resins, the group of sticky substances produced when phenol (carbolic acid) combines with an aldehyde (a volatile fluid similar to alcohol). He soon abandoned the subject, however, only returning to it some years later. By 1905 he was a wealthy New Yorker, having recently made his fortune with the invention of a new photographic paper. While Baekeland had been busily amassing dollars, some advances had been made in the development of plastics. The years 1899 and 1900 had seen the patenting of the first semi-synthetic thermosetting material that could be manufactured on an industrial scale. In purely scientific terms, Baekeland's major contribution to the field is not so much the actual discovery of the material to which he gave his name, but rather the method by which a reaction between phenol and formaldehyde could be controlled, thus making plastic production possible a commercial basis. On July 13 1907, Baekeland took out his famous patent describing the preparation of synthetic thermosetting plastic, the basic principles of which are still in use today.

The original patent outlined a three-stage process, in which phenol and formaldehyde (from wood or coal) were initially combined in a vacuum inside a large egg-shaped kettle. The result was a resin known as Novalak, which became soluble and malleable when heated. The resin was allowed to cool in shallow trays until it hardened, and then broken up and ground into powder. Other substances were then introduced, including fillers, such as wood flour, asbestos or cotton, which increase strength and. moisture resistance, catalysts (substances to speed up the reaction between two chemicals without joining to either) and hexa, a compound of ammonia and formaldehyde which supplied the additional formaldehyde necessary to form a thermosetting resin. This resin was then left to cool and harden, and ground up a second time. The resulting granular powder was raw Bakelite, ready to be made into a vast range of manufactured objects. In the last stage, the heated Bakelite was poured into a hollow mold of the required shape and subjected to extreme heat and pressure; thereby 'setting' its form for life.

The design of Bakelite objects, everything from earrings to television sets, was governed to a large extent by the technical requirements of the molding process. The object could not be designed so that it was locked into the mold and therefore difficult to extract. A common general rule was that objects should taper towards the deepest part of the mold, and if necessary the product was molded in separate pieces. Molds had to be carefully designed so that the molten Bakelite would flow evenly and completely into the mold. Sharp corners proved impractical and were thus avoided, giving rise to the smooth, “streamlined” style popular in the 1930s. The thickness of the walls of the mold was also crucial. Thick walls took longer to cool and harden, a factor which had to be considered by the designer in order to make the most efficient use of machines.

Baekeland's invention, although treated with disdain in its early years, went on to enjoy an unparalleled popularity which lasted throughout the first half of the twentieth century. It became the wonder product of the new world of industrial expansion, known as “the material of a thousand uses.” Being both non-porous and heat-resistant, Bakelite kitchen goods were promoted as being germ-free and sterilizable. Electrical manufacturers were drawn to its insulating properties and consumers everywhere relished its dazzling array of shades, delighted that they were now, at last, no longer restricted to the wood tones and drab browns of the prep fistic era. It then fell from favor again during the 1950s and was despised and destroyed in vast quantities. Recently, however, it has been experiencing something of a renaissance, with renewed demand for original Bakelite objects in the collectors' marketplace, and museums, societies, and dedicated individuals once again appreciating the style and originality of this innovative material.

 
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