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Several DuPont Chemicals scientists were directed by Wallace Carothers. They set out to research commercial applications for polymers, they are the building block molecules that now are used in everything from toothbrushes to CDs. They made the polymer by combining hexamethylenediamine, which is a crystalline substance that bonds with acids and adipic acid. They then pulled strands from the product, using a process called cold drawing, they spun them into plastic thread. A few years later, Production facilities were able to spin up to 12 billion pounds of fiber every year.
The company first tested nylon in toothbrushes, the gradually focused on tapping the women’s clothing market. Since the invention of nylon, it has become an everyday item for most people. Synthetic fabrics of other sorts have been invented using Carothers’ research findings on natural and synthetic polymers. Unfortunately, the world will never see the other inventions that were created by him. He committed suicide on April 29, 1937, soon after the first nylon stockings became available for sale in the United States.
Nylon is produced using a process called polymerizing. The term ‘polyamide’ comes from the presence of repeated units with amide linkages between them. Nylon belongs to the family of strong synthetic fibers. Water is a key ingredient that causes a condensation reaction.
This results in many chains of artificial polymers. The first few threads were weak and could not be woven into cloth. Carothers soon figured out how to remove the water that was leftover from the process. Which had the result of long, strong nylon threads that stretched like elastic.
The chemicals used to make nylon are amine, hexamethylene diamine, and adipic acid. The new molecules are held together by hydrogen atoms. This chain of molecules, which is nylon, resembles the chemical structure of silk, which is produced by silkworms. “You can pretty much live your entire life with nylon by your side. You may sleep on nylon sheets until your alarm clock wakes you up. Hop across the nylon rug or carpet to your kitchen, maybe eat your breakfast from a nylon bowl, before cleaning your teeth with a nylon toothbrush. Hold a nylon umbrella over your head to keep out the rain when you set out for work or school or, if the sun’s shining and you’re heading to the beach, wear your quick-drying nylon swimming shorts instead. You could try jumping from an airplane and have a nylon parachute bring you safely to the ground! Those are just a few of the things that nylon does for us every single day” (Woodford 1).
“Nylons are available in many types like nylon 6, nylon-6, 6, nylon 6/6-6, nylon 6/9, nylon 6/10, nylon 6/12, nylon 11, and nylon 12. Out of these, the two most common grades are nylon 6 and nylon-6, 6. The material is available as homopolymer, co-polymer, or reinforced. To improve their performance, nylons can be blended with other engineering plastics”(science struck 1). Rayon Rayon is a material composed of regenerated and purified cellulose derived from plant sources. It is known as a substitute for silk, rayon is the first man-made fiber. A French scientist and industrialist Hilaire de Chardonnet invented it in the late 19th century and is credited as the first to invent the first commercial viscose fiber, as a cheaper alternative to silk. At first the fabric was so flammable that it was quickly taken off the market until a solution was developed.
The German Bemberg Company had found the issue and corrected it. “In 1892, British scientists Charles Frederick Cross, Edward John Bevan and Clayton Beadle discovered and patented the production process, and by 1905 the first commercial viscose rayon was on the market” (GoodonYou 1). Rayon is made from purified cellulose, primarily from wood pulp, which is chemically converted into cellulose acetate to make the fiber soluble in solvents. It is the oldest manmade fiber. Rayon comes from naturally occurring polymers, so sometimes it’s called a semi-synthetic fiber. Different processes exist to convert the fiber to Rayon. In the case of saponified cellulose acetate, the cellulose is first treated with glacial acetic acid to make the cellulose more reactive.
Next, it is acetylated with an excess of glacial acetic acid and acetic anhydride with Sulphur acid to promote the reaction. The cellulose acetate is then de-acetylated by sodium hydroxide saponification under controlled conditions. This process was developed by Celanese who called the fiber Fortis. Today, the generic term of this fiber is Rayon. The product is a true regenerated cellulose filament. Usually, only a portion of the hydrogen of the cellulose hydroxyl groups has been replaced with substituents. For this reason, it has good water absorbency. As a plant-based fiber, Rayon is not inherently toxic or polluting. However, because of the growing fast-fashion industry, much of the Rayon on the market today is manufactured cheaply using energy, water and chemically-intensive processes that have devastating impacts on workers, local communities and the environment. Therefore, Rayon was given D and E scores for sustainability in the Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibers.
The wood pulp that Rayon is made from is manufactured by treating it with sodium hydroxide and carbon desulphated, which is then filtered and spun into a fine thread. This is a highly polluting process and releases many toxic chemicals into the air and waterways surrounding production plants. Carbon desulphated is another toxic chemical that has been linked to higher levels of coronary heart disease, birth defects, skin conditions and cancer, not just in textile workers but also in those who live near factories. The tensile strength of viscose rayon, in the dry condition, can be increased by crosslinking the cellulose xanthate chains with zinc salts during regeneration. This process leads to high tenacity rayon, which is used in tires and belts. Rayon shrinks and loses much of its strength in water, so that rayon textiles must normally be dry-cleaned. This is a considerable disadvantage and surface treatment, to stabilize the fabric against moisture, can use to produce high wet modulus rayon. Rayon is a versatile fabric sharing many advantages with cotton.
It is soft, comfortable, absorbent, and breathable, takes dyes easily and is derived from renewable raw materials. Wood is a cheaper raw material than any textile fiber but the cost of producing dissolving pulp and converting it into rayon leads to fiber costs that exceed that of cotton, so rayon is not a cheap alternative. Works Cited Woodford, C. (2018). Nylon – The science of synthetic textiles. [online] Explain that Stuff.
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