Summary
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers composed of polyamides (repeating units linked by amide links). Nylon is a silk-like thermoplastic, generally made from petroleum, that can be melt-processed into fibers, films, or shapes. Nylon polymers can be mixed with a wide variety of additives to achieve many property variations. Nylon polymers have found significant commercial applications in fabric and fibers (apparel, flooring and rubber reinforcement), in shapes (molded parts for cars, electrical equipment, etc.), and in films (mostly for food packaging). Researchers at DuPont began developing cellulose-based fibers, culminating in the synthetic fiber rayon. DuPont's experience with rayon was an important precursor to its development and marketing of nylon. DuPont's invention of nylon spanned an eleven-year period, ranging from the initial research program in polymers in 1927 to its announcement in 1938, shortly before the opening of the 1939 New York World's Fair. The project grew from a new organizational structure at DuPont, suggested by Charles Stine in 1927, in which the chemical department would be composed of several small research teams that would focus on "pioneering research" in chemistry and would "lead to practical applications". Harvard instructor Wallace Hume Carothers was hired to direct the polymer research group. Initially he was allowed to focus on pure research, building on and testing the theories of German chemist Hermann Staudinger. He was very successful, as research he undertook greatly improved the knowledge of polymers and contributed to the science. Nylon was the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer. DuPont began its research project in 1927. The first nylon, nylon 66, was synthesized on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Hume Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station. In response to Carothers' work, Paul Schlack at IG Farben developed nylon 6, a different molecule based on caprolactam, on January 29, 1938.
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