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.
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.
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 »