The aerosol can is still one of the most popular and effective packaging designs of all time. Aerosol is a collection of liquid droplets or solid particles that are delivered using gases, and the concept hasn’t changed all that much since its 18th-century inception.
But the term “aerosol” wasn’t coined until World War One when Frederick G. Donnan used it to describe his “aero-solution.” However, the original idea goes back way further than that.
The Earliest Aerosol Cans
The first known use of the aerosol concept dates back to the late 1700s when pressurized carbonated drinks were first introduced in France. A soda siphon was developed by during the early 19th century, and the first metal aerosol cans — then made from industrial-grade steel — were tested a few years later. It wasn’t until 1899 and Helbling and Pertsch’s patented aerosol designs using methyl chloride that the concept became practical.
The First Modern Aerosol Can
The aerosol can design we all now know didn’t hit the mass market until 1927 — when Norwegian engineer Erik Rotheim patented the first can that could hold and dispense products using a specific propellant system.
The initial design was a modest commercial success, but it was bulky and quite heavy — and the price point meant only the wealthiest in society could afford it. But necessity is the mother of invention, and it wasn’t long before a genuine need for a portable spray inspired people to work on a more practical design.
During World War Two, the U.S. government poured millions of dollars into researching a way of giving soldiers a portable bug spray. Malaria was a problem on foreign battlefields at the time, and it was the cause significant troop losses. It was two Department of Agriculture scientists — William Sullivan and Lyle Goodhue — who eventually used the liquefied gas fluorocarbon to solve the problem.
The Advent of Aluminum
For several years after the war, various companies worked on aerosol can designs that could be used for substances other than pesticides and bug-killing sprays. In 1949, Robert H. Abplanalp invented the crimp-on value, which meant products could be delivered by inert gases more cheaply than ever before. Made of aluminum, this new design made mass production for cosmetics companies cost-effective. Within just a few years, creams, powders, and foams stored in aerosol cans were widely available around the world.
Environmental Issues Changed Everything
Abplanalp’s Precision Valve Corporation became one of the biggest and most profitable manufacturing companies in the world — turning over more than $600 billion every year. However, when scientists discovered that fluorocarbons were breaking down the Earth’s ozone layer, a new design became essential.
Abplanalp and his team eventually came up with the idea of replacing the damaging fluorocarbons with water-soluble hydrocarbons. This new design was kinder to the environment and ensured the aerosol can remain one of the most common packaging designs in the cosmetics industry.
Over the years, aerosol cans have become smaller, lighter and easier to brand. Advances in printing technologies mean brands can now customize their cans like never before. But, as they say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The basic design of the aerosol can hasn’t changed all that much since Abplanalp invented his crimp-on valve — and it continues to dominate the cosmetics, beauty and personal care industries to this day.
Tecnocap aluminum aerosol cans are optimized to make the best possible use of more than a century of innovation. Leak-proof, pressure-resistant and suitable for all types of propellants, tecnocap cans not only look great — they deliver reliability and performance too.