The Chemistry of Vinyl Records


I chose vinyl records for my project because I have many records of my own and I find them fascinating. I also really wanted to know more about how they worked and were made. Vinyl records have been around since the 1950s. Records are not as popular as they used to be but they still are used by a handful of people.

Composition of ...

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

Chlorine- Cl2

In an industrial setting, the electrolytic dissociation of salt is used to obtain chlorine.

Ehtylene- C2H4

Ethylene is produced through a process called cracking, in which petroleum is passed through high heat and pressure. Colorless flammable gas with a sweet taste and odor.

Chemistry's Role


  • Naturally occurring.
  • In industry chlorine is produced by the electrolysis of sodium chloride dissolved in water.
  • 57% of vinyl is made from common salt, which is a renewable natural substance making vinyl environmentally friendly.
  • Common salt is used to obtain chlorine through a process called electrolytic disassociation of salt
  • “The breaking up of a compound into simpler constituents that are usually capable of recombining under other conditions. In electrolytic, or ionic, dissociation, the addition of a solvent or of energy in the form of heat causes molecules or crystals of the substance to break up into ions”


  • Chemical compound
  • Naturally occurs in natural gas and petroleum
  • The starting material for many two-carbon compounds (including PVC)
  • Crude oil, petroleum, or natural gas are used to obtain ethylene industrially.
  • During a process called 'cracking', petroleum is passed through high heat and pressure, as a result of which the petroleum is broken down into ethylene, butadiene, propylene, and other by-products. The ethylene is then separated from the other by-products.

Background Research

Vinyl records are made by unifying chlorine and ethylene. The liquid resulting is called ethylene dichloride or EDC. The EDC is put through a cracking process which results in PVC. The PVC is a clear color so the addition of carbon creates the classic black color of records.


Polyvinyl Chloride- PVC

PVC in records is a copolymer(a mixture of two monomers) vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate

Analog Sound Storage Medium disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral grove

How to create the pressing discs.

Polyvinyl Chloride is CH2=CHCL

Raw materials are derived from salt and oil

Acetates are the discs used to check quality before production

Aluminum disc covered in a thin coating of nitrocellulose lacquer

Discovery of vinyl records.

Discovered Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or Vinyl)

Powder form that turned into a rubbery gel when mixed with hot solvent

Manufacturing of Vinyl

How PVC is made.

Dangers of PVC

PVC real world uses.

Detailed process of making PVC.

How to make ethylene from petroleum

Explains Poly(chloroethene)

Ethylene used to produce chloroethene (vinyl chloride) and hence poly(chloroethene), i.e. poly(vinylchloride)


About the Author

Bailey Evenson is a high school senior attending Billings Senior High. She enjoys being creative, playing volleyball, and listening to music. She has had a record player for about a year now with tons of old "garage sale" records plus about ten new bands(including her favorite, The Head and The Heart). In the summer of 2015 she will attend Montana

State University to study some field of engineering. At this time she is thinking of maybe chemical, industrial, of design engineering. Her passion for engineering drives from the fact that engineers can change the world and impact the lives of others. Bailey is an executive member of the Billings Senior High STEM society and competes on an all girl FTC Robotics team.