West Virginia Department of Commerce Modern Life Made Possible

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Modern Life Made Possible



Modern Life Made Possible

South Charleston has been portrayed as a place where innovation in the chemical industry takes place – where things happened for the first time.

Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon artist Al Williamson created a four-page comic book to promote Union Carbide in the 1970s. The art was recently on display at the West Virginia Culture Center.


In the 1940s and 1950s, the Union Carbide Tech Center became one of the country’s leading research centers, generating more than 30,000 patents. In fact, about 280 of the world’s top 500 chemicals were invented or commercialized there. Today, we take for granted brands like Glad trash bags, Eveready batteries or Prestone antifreeze. But from the plastic bristles in your toothbrush to the polymer base inside your chewing gum – all of these products were made possible by chemicals invented in West Virginia.

“Neat stuff being done by neat people – that was South Charleston,” said George Keller II, Ph.D. Keller had a 36-year career in Carbide’s research and development department. Today, he is a co-founder and chief engineer of the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center (MATRIC), a nonprofit research institute in that focuses on creating and commercializing innovations in chemical, energy and environmental technologies.

Keller’s offices are located at what was the Carbide Tech Center. Around him are new construction and new tenants, as well as a renewed feeling that West Virginia’s chemical industry is on the verge of a Renaissance when a cracker comes to the region.

It’s déjà vu, because West Virginia invented the world’s first ethane cracker about 100 years ago.

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