What are Polyamides?

What are Polyamides?

Ok, we have been throwing a lot of different plastic names at you over the last few weeks. We will make this one simple for you. This week we are going to learn about polyamides, more easily remembered as “nylon.” Nylon is a tough, lightweight, elastic thermoplastic polymer with a protein-like chemical structure. Nylon has the ability to be produced as threads, sheets, or molded objects, and is very commonly used today. More than four million tons of nylon are produced worldwide each year.

How is Nylon Produced from Polyamides?

Who Invented Nylon?

Nylon was first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont’s research facility at the DuPont Experimental laboratory. We are very lucky to have this material because it is very commonly used. Carothers perfected the nylon-making process in 1937, and sadly committed suicide that very same year after the unexpected death of his sister.

How Long Has Nylon Been Used For?

Nylon was used for the very first time in 1938 in a nylon-bristled toothbrush. That caused nylon to be introduced as a fabric at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Afterward, in 1940, nylon became much more famous when it started being used for women’s stockings.

Most importantly, nylon was the savior fabric in World War II; it was used for parachutes, tents, ropes, ponchos, and MORE! Therefore, Wallace Carothers unintentionally supplied a war that he was never able to see.

What are the Benefits of Nylon?

  • Sunlight resistant
  • High melting point
  • Durable
  • Melts rather than burns
  • Highly resilient
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Resistant to fungi, molds, mildew, animals, and many chemicals
  • Transparent to infrared light
  • High elongation
  • Ability to be very lustrous, dull, or somewhere in between
  • Easy to dye



What is Nylon Used For?

  • Carpets
  • Hair combs
  • Rods, tubes, sheets
  • Stockings and other easy-care garments
  • Tents
  • Ropes
  • Guitar strings
  • Parachutes
  • Fishing line
  • Various military applications
  • Seatbelts
  • Tire cords
  • Food packaging
  • Toothbrushes

Other Popular Inventions Around Nylon’s Time

  • 1930: Scotch Tape; The Jet Engine
  • 1934: Monopoly
  • 1937: The Photocopier
  • 1938: The Ballpoint Pen; Teflon
  • 1939: The Helicopter; The Electron Microscope
  • 1940: The Color Television
  • 1941: The Neutron Reactor
  • 1943: The Slinky
  • 1944: Kidney Dialysis
  • 1945: The Atomic Bomb
  • 1946: The Microwave Oven; Tupperware; The First Bikini
  • 1948: The Frisbee; Velcro; The Jukebox
  • 1950: The First Credit Card


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