The development of the use of cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL) in commerce can be traced from Cardolite Corporation to its predecessors 3M Company and Irvington Varnish and Insulator Company.
Dr. M. T. Harvey through his research company, Harvel Corporation, imported the first commercial quantity of CNSL in 1926 in the United States. CNSL was known for centuries prior to this, but no significant commercial uses had been developed. Dr. Harvey recognized that the unique chemical structure (a meta substituted alkenyl phenol) should have commercial use.
Harvel entered into a joint venture with Irvington Varnish and Insulator Company for the purpose of developing commercial uses of CNSL. Irvington and Harvel in the 1930’s developed the first major (and still the largest) use of CNSL which is cashew friction particle in the brake lining industry. Other uses into coatings were developed using its phenolic nature and its properties as a drying oil, but none were long lasting. However, in 1946 the business was large enough to justify construction of a dedicated factory to the production of derivatives of CNSL in Newark, New Jersey.
3M Company acquired Irvington in 1953. About this time, commercial production of cardanol began at Newark. Now, whole new families of products were possible. Cardolite NC-510, n pentadecylphenol, found use as an intermediate in color film. In 1954, 3M developed the monoglycidyl ether of cardanol (Cardolite NC-513). By the late 50’s, NC-513, especially, found extensive use in epoxy chemistry, and its use continues to this day. Liquid cashew resins were introduced as binders in automotive strip linings. In the 1970’s, 3M developed amine functional curing agents based on CNSL and gave them the generic name “phenalkamines.”