Synthetic Fibers

Topics: Synthetic fiber, Fiber, Aramid Pages: 5 (1776 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Today they're many thousand different materials. Most of them are different types of clothing, or cloth. Good portions of these are combinations of synthetic fibers woven or threaded together to make a final product. These synthetic fibers are a large group of polymers. Synthetic polymers offer more possibilities, since they can be designed with molecular structures that impart properties for desired end uses. All fibers are ploy-something or polymers. That means they are long strings of repeating chemical elements. Some fibers come from ground plants that synthesize connected units of cellulose like cotton. Others are protein chains found on animals - wool, or the hair on your head. Other fibers are spewed from insects and worms, like spider webs and silk. Many of these polymers are capable of dissolving or melting, allowing them to be extruded into the long, thin filaments needed to make most textile products. Synthetic polymer fibers can be made with regular structures that allow the chains to pack together tightly, a characteristic that gives strength. Filaments today can be made from some synthetic polymers that are much lighter and stronger even than steel(Warner,p129-139).

All manufactured fibers can be engineered to produce desired qualities. The size of polymer molecules is important. A polymeric material contains many chains with the same repeating units, but with different chain lengths. Mostly, higher molecular weights lead to greater strength. As polymer chains get bigger, their solutions become more viscous and difficult to process. These straight chains may be branched, with small chains extending out from the backbone. The branches also may grow until they join with other branches to form a huge, three-dimensional matrix. Then, a century ago, the first manufactured fiber, rayon, was developed. The secrets of fiber chemistry for countless applications had begun to emerge. It started in France when rayon was produced from reconstituted wood pulp. Later, acetate would be invented in a similar way. More new fibers followed when chemists learned how to make them in the laboratory.

The earliest published record of an attempt to create an artificial fiber took place in 1664. English naturalist Robert Hooke suggested the possibility of producing a fiber that would be, as good, ore better than silk. His goal remained unachieved for more than two centuries. The first patent for artificial silk was granted in England in 1855 to a Swiss chemist named Audemars. He dissolved the fibrous inner bark of a mulberry tree, and chemically modified it to produce cellulose. He formed threads by dipping needles into this solution and drawing them out. In the early 1880's, Sir Joseph W. Swan, an English chemist and electrician, was spurred to action by Thomas Edison's new incandescent electric lamp. He experimented with forcing a liquid similar to Audemars solution through fine holes into a coagulating bath. His fibers worked like carbon filament, and they found early use in Edison's invention. It also occurred to Swan that his filament could be used to make textiles. In 1885 he exhibited in, London some fabrics crocheted by his wife from his new fiber. But electrical lamps remained his main interest, and he soon abandoned work on textile applications(Warner,p23).

The first commercial scale production of a manufactured fiber was achieved by French chemist Count Hilaire de Chardonnet. In 1889, his fabrics caused a sensation at the Paris Exhibition. Two years later he built the first commercial rayon plant at Besancon, France, and secured his fame as the "father of the rayon industry. Several attempts to produce artificial silk in the United States were made during the early 1900's but none were commercially successful until the American Viscose Company, formed by Samuel Courtaulds and Co., Ltd., began production its production of rayon in 1910(Rayon). In 1893, Arthur D. Little of Boston, invented yet...
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