Nylon: Synthetic Fiber Becomes a Market Success
DuPont scientists created nylon fiber in 1935, giving manufacturers an artificial alternative to silk that became a massive success in the women’s hosiery market and went on to help the Allies win World War II.
Creating a Syntetic Fiber to Replace Silk
The Jazz Age ushered in wilder times and shorter dresses, generating a growing demand among women for comfortable, affordable and durable stockings. Japanese silk wasn’t cheap, so DuPont was interested in developing a synthetic alternative that could be used for ladies’ hosiery and other items typically made from silk.
Inventing the First Nylon Fibers
Under Wallace H. Carothers, PhD, a team worked throughout the 1930s on developing a synthetic fiber suitable for commercial use. The first big breakthrough came in 1935, when a polymer that was synthesized from adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine formed fibers that were strong and elastic. The perfected product was created in 1938, and by 1940, nylon stockings were on store shelves.
A Million (Now Billion) Dollar Discovery
DuPont immediately made millions from nylon stockings – four million pairs sold out in just four days when the product went on sale nationally. But with the breakout of war, DuPont switched to producing nylon for the military, particularly the manufacture of parachutes. In 1945, nylon stockings returned to a grateful public, and today nylon can also be found in numerous products ranging from guitar strings to car parts.
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