Nylon is a polymer that is made from petroleum products and is used to create a synthetic fabric. It is similar in texture to silk and was produced as an alternative to silk in the 1930’s. It became very popular when made into women’s stockings and was used extensively during the Second World War to make items such as parachutes and ropes. The first product to ever use nylon was a nylon bristled toothbrush. Nylon is valued as a fabric for its versatility, ease of dying, light weight, tensile strength and resistance to damage.
Where Does Nylon Come From?
Nylon was invented by Wallace Carothers, an employee of E.I du Pont de Nemours and Company, in 1934. Wallace Carothers developed a way to remove the excess water from the polymerizing process and created the first strands of nylon. Polymerization is the process where the water in a chemical solution condenses and leaves behind chains of artificial polymers. The chemicals used to create nylon are amine, hexamethylene diamine, adipic acid. Much of the worlds nylon fibers are produced by China who produced 1.4m tones of nylon filament yarn in 2009.
How Is Nylon Made?
Nylon is made by combining two sets of molecules, one with an acid group and one with an amine group, in a large vat that heats the molecules to very high temperatures. The small molecules combine when heated to form large molecules or molten nylon. The semi-liquid nylon is then transferred to a spinneret which separates the molten nylon into thin threads. This is able to happen as when molten nylon is exposed to air it hardens and becomes solid. The thin threads are wound onto large bobbins and then stretched to create elasticity and strength. Once this has been achieved the nylon thread can be woven into nylon fabric.