Synthetic fibers are polymers made from small units joined together through chemical synthesis. The chemical synthesis of synthetic fibers involves polymerization. Polymerization is the process of combining monomer units to make a long chain or polymer. Here, I have put together a list of 11 synthetic fibers that we use in our daily life.
Rayon is a synthetic fiber but is made from a natural source. It is obtained from purified cellulose through the chemical treatment of wood pulp. It was first developed in 1894 by English chemist Charles Frederick Cross.
Rayon fabric is soft, smooth, shiny, cool, comfortable, and highly absorbent. These properties are similar to that of silk, but rayon is cheaper than silk. Hence, rayon is sometimes called poor man’s silk.
In 1935, DuPont (US Conglomerate) made Nylon without using any natural raw material. So, it was the first fully synthetic fiber. It was first used in bristles of toothbrushes and women’s stockings.
Nylon fiber is strong, elastic, light, lustrous, and easy to wash. Thus, it was widely used as a replacement for cotton and silk during Second World War. It is also used to make tents, ropes, and parachutes.
It is a heat-resistant synthetic fiber. Kevlar was first developed by DuPont in 1965. Due to its high tensile strength, it was first used as a replacement for steel in racing tires.
Kevlar fibers are very tightly spun thus it is impossible to penetrate them. For instance, when a bullet or other projectile hits the kevlar, the fibers actually grab the projectile while absorbing and dissipating its energy.
Polyesters are polymers that are made up of the repeating units of a chemical called an ester. Fabric made from polyester does not get wrinkled or shrank easily. Moreover, these fibers are hydrophobic in nature which makes them easy to wash and dry.
Polyester is the most commonly used synthetic fiber. It is widely used in apparel and home furnishing items.
Acrylic fibers are made up of thousands of acrylonitrile monomer units. These fibers are soft, strong, warm with a wool-like touch. Moreover, they are easy to wash, thus find use in the apparel industry.
Acrylic fibers are used to make winter clothing such as sweaters, socks, fleece wear, etc. Some common trade names for acrylic fibers include Acrilan, Creslan, Orlon, and Zefran.
Carbon fibers are made up of thin, strong crystalline filaments of carbon. These fibers also have superior electrical properties, high strength, they do not expand under heat.
These properties make carbon fibers an excellent candidate for use in aerospace, F1 racing, wind turbines, and military designs. Sometimes, carbon fibers are also called graphite fibers.
Microfiber is finer than one strand of silk and is about a fifth of the diameter of human hair. These fibers are mostly made from polyesters or polyamides. Fabric made from microfiber is highly absorbent.
Microfibers are mostly used to make mops, cleaning towels, industrial filters. It is also a popular choice for the manufacture of athletic wear such as cycling jerseys.
Lycra fiber is the trademarked brand name of a class of synthetic fibers. It is also known as spandex in the US and elastane in the rest of the world. Joseph Shivers, a chemist at DuPont labs, invented lycra in 1958.
It has exceptional elasticity and strength. Lycra is used to make skin-tight garments such as athletic wear, leggings, shorts, yoga pants, undergarments, etc.
PVDC or Polyvinylidene Chloride
PVDC or Polyvinylidene Chloride is a transparent and flexible thermoplastic. It is produced by the polymerization of vinylidene chloride. PVDC is also highly resistant to many chemicals including grease and oil.
It also forms a barrier against water and oxygen, making it perfect for protecting food and other perishable items. The most popular brand of PVDC is Saran wrap.
Thinsulate was invented by the 3M corporation. It was first sold in 1979. According to 3M Corp, it is twice as warm as any natural material and much finer than the normal fiber.
Thinsulate is used in your winter clothing to help you keep warm. Nowadays, carmakers are also using Thinsulate to make fabric roofs for convertible sports cars.
Nomex is heat and flame-resistant fiber that doesn’t melt, drip, or support combustion. Thus, provide superior heat, flame, and arc flash protection. Dupont developed this fiber in the 1960s. Nomex protects first responders, utility, and electrical workers.
So, now you know about various kinds of synthetic fibers and their properties. So that is all for now, meet you in my next article. Keep Reading, Keep Exploring, and Keep Sharing your Knowledge, and above all BE CURIOUS. 🙂
- Lycra Spandex and Elastane. (2021). Retrieved 25 August 2021, from https://www.apparelsearch.com/questions/answers/difference-lycra-spandex-elastane.html
- PVDC Film. (2021). Retrieved 25 August 2021, from http://polymerdatabase.com/Films/PVDC%20Films.html
- Bullen, N., & Ward, C. (2021). What is Microfibre? The benefits of this Super-Fibre. Retrieved 25 August 2021, from https://www.contrado.co.uk/blog/what-is-microfiber/
- What Is Acrylic Fiber? – PRODUCTS – What is Acrylic Fiber? – AKSA. (2021). Retrieved 25 August 2021, from https://www.aksa.com/en/products/what-is-acrylic-fiber-/what-is-acrylic-fiber/