first synthesized in 1893 by Charles Moureu, did not become important
until the 1930s, when industry began using it in new applications
such as acrylic fibers for textiles and synthetic rubber.
by the late 1940s the utility of acrylonitrile was unquestioned,
existing manufacturing methods were expensive, multistep processes.
They seemed reserved for the world's largest and wealthiest principal
manufacturers: American Cyanamid, Union Carbide, DuPont, and Monsanto.
At such high production costs, acrylonitrile could well have remained
little more than an interesting, low-volume specialty chemical with
the late 1950s, however, Sohio's research into selective catalytic
oxidation led to a breakthrough in acrylonitrile manufacture. The
people who invented, developed, and commercialized the process showed
as much skill in marketing as in chemistry. The result was such
a dramatic lowering of process costs that all other methods of producing
acrylonitrile, predominantly through acetylene, soon became obsolete.