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The U.S. Navy’s change from coal to oil-fired boilers at sea is another key chapter in petroleum history.

Petroleum and Sea Power

Commissioned on March 12, 1914, with coal-powered boilers that were converted to use fuel oil in 1925, the U.S.S. Texas “was the most powerful weapon in the world, the most complex product of an industrial nation just beginning to become a force in global events,” says an historian at Battleship Texas State Historic Site.

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The world’s first synthetic fiber is the petroleum product “Nylon 6.” It is discovered by a DuPont chemist who produces the polymer from chemicals found in oil.

petroleum product nylon

“Women show off their nylon pantyhose to a newspaper photographer, circa 1942,” notes historian Jennifer S. Li in “The Story of Nylon – From a Depressed Scientist to Essential Swimwear.” Photo by Dale Rooks.

petroleum product nylon

Du Pont models at the 1939 New York World’s Fair demonstrate nylon’s strength.

Du Pont Corporation foresees the future artificial fibers “strong as steel.” The chemical company becomes a global giant as its scientist create consumer products out of nylon, rayon and lucite.

The world’s first synthetic fiber – nylon – is discovered on February 28, 1935, by a former Harvard professor working at a DuPont Corporation research laboratory.

Later called Nylon 6 by scientists, the revolutionary product comes from chemicals found in petroleum.

Professor Wallace Carothers had experimented with artificial materials for more than six years. He previously discovered neoprene rubber (commonly used in wetsuits) and made major contributions to understanding polymers – large molecules composed in long chains of repeating chemical structures.

petroleum product nylon

DuPont names the new petroleum product nylon – although chemists call it Nylon 6 because the adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine each contain 6 carbon atoms per molecule.

Just 32-years-old, Carothers creates fibers when he combines the chemicals amine, hexamethylene diamine, and adipic acid.

He forms a polymer chain using a process in which individual molecules join together with water as a byproduct.

However, the fibers are weak, explains a PBS series, “A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries.”

“Carothers’ breakthrough came when he realized the water produced by the reaction was dropping back into the mixture and getting in the way of more polymers forming,” notes the PBS website. “He adjusted his equipment so that the water was distilled and removed from the system. It worked!” Read the rest of this entry »