In 1917, DuPont, seeking to end reliance on German dyes, began construction of a dye works and the Jackson dye research laboratory at Deepwater, under chemist Arthur Chambers.
The early years of dye production were difficult, but by 1929 Deepwater finally made a profit. In the meantime, Deepwater had also become the site for production of some of DuPont's most important chemicals, particularly tetraethyl lead (TEL), used as an anti-knock agent in gasoline. Deepwater was the only plant in the Western hemisphere producing TEL up to 1948, when it accounted for the bulk of Deepwater's production. During the 1950s and 1960s, the site, also known as the Chambers Works, was at the center of DuPont's highly profitable dye operations. With 6,500 employees working in more than 500 buildings, Deepwater was the largest individual chemical plant in the world's largest chemical company.
In the 1970s, however, rising overhead costs and heightened foreign competition cut into Deepwater's business, and the dye works were closed in 1980. Today, Deepwater remains key to DuPont's operations as a production site for chemical intermediates and related products. It is also the site of the DuPont Environmental Treatment (DET) facility, the world's largest commercial and industrial wastewater processing plant, a landmark environmental initiative.
DuPont's Jackson Laboratory produced some of DuPont's most notable scientific successes in the dyestuffs and allied organic chemicals industries. It was constructed at Deepwater Point, N.J., in 1917 and named in honor of DuPont Chemist and Manager Oscar R. Jackson. Prior to World War I, United States textile manufacturers had depended almost completely on synthetic dyes imported from Germany, expertly produced there by state-of-the-art facilities backed by sophisticated research labs. However, Britain's wartime blockade of Germany halted these imports, including shipments of diphenylamine, a key chemical used in both dye and smokeless powder production. When dyes supplies grew critically short, America turned to DuPont, its premier chemical company, for a solution. DuPont was prepared to increase production of diphenylamine for smokeless powder, but it lacked experience in making dyes. Chemist Arthur D. Chambers of DuPont's Development Department encouraged the company's Executive Committee to proceed with research in synthetic dyes, not only to diversify the company's products but also to develop useful knowledge in organic chemistry. By the mid-1920s Jackson Laboratory had achieved both goals. In 1926 its chemists collaborated with researchers from General Motors (GM) to develop a process for making the gasoline anti-knock additive, tetraethyl lead or TEL. A few years later Jackson researchers developed a successful process for the commercial production of Freon®, a chlorofluorocarbon gas used as a refrigerant and aerosol propellant. Extended research into Freon derivatives yielded Jackson Laboratory's most famous discovery in April 1938 when Chemist Roy J. Plunkett discovered a new, slippery and remarkably durable material later known as Teflon®.
Jackson Laboratory was transferred into the newly created Organic Chemicals (Orchem) Department in 1931 and was involved in improving neoprene synthetic rubber, discovered at the Experimental Station the year before. DuPont's dyestuffs research peaked in the 1950s, with Jackson chemists developing suitable dyes for DuPont's Orlon and Dacron synthetic fibers, then declined in the mid-1960s amidst mounting global competition. DuPont left the dye business and restructured its Organic Chemicals Department in the early 1980s. Jackson Laboratory subsequently moved into a support role for DuPont's nearby Chambers Works, a specialty and intermediate chemicals plant.