When combined with the polyester microfiber in just the right combination,
a cloth results with the advantages of both synthetics. Too much nylon will result in a
cloth that will scratch fine or delicate surfaces like coated optics or fine wood or paint
finishes. Too little nylon and the cloth will not last or clean rough surfaces like guitar
strings without rapid deterioration. It is this perfect combination of microfiber and
nylon that make Googalies the wonder it is. Many of you may find it interesting to more
completely explore the evolution of man-made or synthetic fibers so we have provided below
and brief yet comprehensive history of these wonderful inventions below.
Historically, the use of fiber
was limited to those fibers available in the natural world. However, cotton and linen
wrinkled from wear and washings; Silk required delicate handling; Wool shrank, and
was irritating to the touch. Only a century ago, rayon - the first manufactured fiber -
was developed. Fiber chemistry for endless application began.
Manufactured (man-made) fibers
are now found in modern apparel, home furnishings, medicine, aeronautics, energy,
industry, and more. Fiber engineers can combine, modify and tailor fibers in ways far
beyond the performance limits of fiber drawn from natural sources such as the silkworm
cocoon that is grown in the fields, or spun from the fleece of animals. The table below
illustrates the evolution of man-made fibers.
First Commercial U.S.
The first patent for
"artificial silk" was granted in England in 1855 to a Swiss chemist named
Audemars. He dissolved the fibrous inner bark of a mulberry tree, chemically modifying it
to produce cellulose. He formed threads by dipping needles into this solution and drawing
them out - but it never occurred to him to emulate the silkworm by extruding the
cellulosic liquid through a small hole.
In the early 1880's, Sir
Joseph W. Swan, an English chemist and electrician, was spurred to action by Thomas
Edison's new incandescent electric lamp. He experimented with forcing a liquid similar to
Audemars solution through fine holes into a coagulating bath. His fibers worked like
carbon filament, and they found early use in Edison's invention. It also occurred to Swan
that his filament could be used to make textiles. In 1885, he exhibited in London some
fabrics crocheted by his wife from his new fiber.
First Commercial Production
The first commercial scale
production of a manufactured fiber was achieved by French chemist Count Hilaire de
Chardonnet. In 1889, his fabrics of "artificial silk" caused a sensation at the
Paris Exhibition. Two years later, he built the first commercial rayon plant at Besancon,
France, and secured his fame as the "father of the rayon industry."
Several attempts to produce
"artificial silk" in the United States were made during the early 1900's, but
none were commercially successful until the American Viscose Company, formed by Samuel
Courtaulds and Co., Ltd., began its production of rayon in 1910.
In 1893, Arthur D. Little of
Boston, invented yet another cellulosic product - acetate - and developed it as a film. By
1910, Camille and Henry Dreyfus were making acetate motion picture film and toilet
articles in Basel, Switzerland. During World War I, they built a plant in England to
produce cellulose acetate dope for airplane wings and other commercial products. Upon
entering the War, the United States government invited the Dreyfus brothers to build a
plant in Maryland to make the product for American warplanes. The first commercial textile
uses for acetate in fiber form were developed by the Celanese Company in 1924.
In the meantime, U.S. rayon
production was growing to meet increasing demand. By the mid-1920's, textile manufacturers
could purchase the fiber for half the price of raw silk.
So began manufactured fibers'
gradual conquest of the American fiber market. This modest start in the 1920's grew to
nearly 70% of the national market for fiber by the last decade of the century.
Nylon - The
In September 1931,
American chemist Wallace Carothers reported on research carried out in the laboratories of
the DuPont Company on "giant" molecules called polymers. He focused his work on
a fiber referred to simply as "66", a number derived from its molecular
structure. Nylon, the "miracle fiber," was born. The Chemical Heritage
Foundation is currently featuring an exhibit on the history of nylon.
By 1938, Paul Schlack of the
I.G. Farben Company in Germany, polymerized caprolactam and created a different form of
the polymer, identified simply as nylon "6."
Nylon's advent created a
revolution in the fiber industry. Rayon and acetate had been derived from plant cellulose,
but nylon was synthesized completely from petrochemicals. It established the basis for the
ensuing discovery of an entire new world of manufactured fibers.
An American Romance
DuPont began commercial
production of nylon in 1939. The first experimental testing used nylon as sewing thread in
parachute fabric, and in women's hosiery. Nylon stockings were shown in February 1939 at
the San Francisco Exposition - and the most exciting fashion innovation of the age was
American women had only a
sampling of the beauty and durability of their first pairs of nylon hose when their
romance with the new fabric was cut short. The United States entered World War II in
December 1941 and the War Production Board allocated all production of nylon for military
use. Nylon hose, which sold for $1.25 a pair before the War, moved in the black market at
$10. Wartime pin-ups and movie stars, like Betty Grable, auctioned nylon hose for as much
as $40,000 a pair in war-effort drives.
During the War, nylon replaced
Asian silk in parachutes. It also found use in tires, tents, ropes, ponchos, and other
military supplies, and even was used in the production of a high-grade paper for U.S.
currency. At the outset of the War, cotton was king of fibers, accounting for more than
80% of all fibers used. Manufactured and wool fibers shared the remaining 20%. By the end
of the War in August 1945, cotton stood at 75% of the fiber market. Manufactured fibers
had risen to 15%.
The Post-War Industry
After the war, GI's came
home, families were reunited, industrial America gathered its peacetime forces, and
economic growth surged. The conversion of nylon production to civilian uses started and
when the first small quantities of postwar nylon stockings were advertised, thousands of
frenzied women lined up at New York department stores to buy.
In the immediate post-war
period, most nylon production was used to satisfy this enormous pent up demand for
hosiery. But by the end of the 1940's, it was also being used in carpeting and automobile
upholstery. At the same time, three new generic manufactured fibers started production.
Dow Badische Company (today, BASF Corporation) introduced metalized fibers; Union
Carbide Corporation developed modacrylic fiber; and Hercules, Inc. added olefin fiber.
Manufactured fibers continued their steady march.
By the 1950's, the industry
was supplying more than 20% of the fiber needs of textile mills. A new fiber,
""acrylic,"" was added to the list of generic names, as DuPont began
production of this wool-like product.
Meanwhile, polyester, first
examined as part of the Wallace Carothers early research, was attracting new interest at
the Calico Printers Association in Great Britain. There, J. T. Dickson and J. R. Whinfield
produced a polyester fiber by condensation polymerization of ethylene glycol with
terephthalic acid. DuPont subsequently acquired the patent rights for the United States
and Imperial Chemical Industries for the rest of the world. A host of other producers soon
A Wash and Wear Revolution
In the summer of 1952,
"wash and wear" was coined to describe a new blend of cotton and acrylic. The
term eventually was applied to a wide variety of manufactured fiber blends. Commercial
production of polyester fiber transformed the "wash and wear" novelty into a
revolution in textile product performance.
in 1953 was accompanied by the introduction of triacetate. The majority of the 20th
century's basic manufactured fibers now had been discovered, and the industry's engineers
turned to refining their chemical and physical properties to extend their use across the
In the 1960's and 1970's
consumers bought more and more clothing made with polyester. Clotheslines were replaced by
electric dryers, and the "wash and wear" garments they dried emerged wrinkle
free. Ironing began to shrink away on the daily list of household chores. Fabrics became
more durable and color more permanent. New dyeing effects were being achieved and
shape-retaining knits offered new comfort and style.
In the 1960's,
manufactured fiber production accelerated as it was spurred on by continuous fiber
innovation. The revolutionary new fibers were modified to offer greater comfort, provide
flame resistance, reduce clinging, release soil, achieve greater whiteness, special
dullness or luster, easier dyeability, and better blending qualities. New fiber shapes and
thicknesses were introduced to meet special needs. Spandex, a stretchable fiber; aramid, a
high-temperature-resistant polyamide; and para-aramid, with outstanding strength-to-weight
properties, were introduced into the marketplace.
In the early 1960's,
manufactured fiber accounted for nearly 30% of American textile mill consumption. By 1965,
the manufactured fiber industry was providing over 40% of the nation's fiber needs.
One dramatic new set of uses
for manufactured fibers came with the establishment of the U.S. space program. The
industry provided special fiber for uses ranging from clothing for the astronauts to
spaceship nose cones. When Neil Armstrong took "One small step for man, one giant
leap for mankind," on the moon on July 20, 1969, his lunar space suit included
multi-layers of nylon and aramid fabrics. The flag he planted was made of nylon.
Today, the exhaust nozzles of
the two large booster rockets that lift the space shuttle into orbit contain 30,000 pounds
of carbonized rayon. Carbon fiber composites are used in as structural components in the
latest commercial aircraft, adding strength and lowering weight and fuel costs.
Safety and Energy
The early 1970's saw a
wave of consumer protection demands, most notably one for a mandated Federal flammability
standard for children's sleepwear. The manufactured fiber industry spent $20 million on
flammability research and development in 1972 and 1973, and manufactured fiber fabrics
became predominant in this market. Flammability standards were also issued for carpet and
other products. In the U.S. carpet market, 99% of all surface fibers are now manufactured
In late 1973, when the Nation
was struck by a severe energy crisis, the manufactured fiber industry reduced the energy
required to produce a pound of fiber by 26%. By then, the industry was using but 1% of the
Nation's petroleum supply to provide two-thirds of all fibers used by American textile
Innovation is the hallmark
of the manufactured fiber industry. Fibers more numerous and diverse than any found in
nature are now routinely created in the industry's laboratories.
Nylon variants, polyester, and
olefin are used to produce carpets that easily can be rinsed clean even 24 hours
after they've been stained. Stretchable spandex and machine-washable, silk-like polyesters
occupy solid places in the U.S. apparel market. The finest microfiber is remaking the world of fashion.
For industrial uses,
manufactured fibers relentlessly replace traditional materials in applications from
super-absorbent diapers, to artificial organs, to construction materials for moon-based
space stations. Engineered non-woven products of manufactured fibers are found in
applications from surgical gowns and apparel interfacing to roofing materials, road bed
stabilizers, and floppy disk envelopes and liners. Non-woven fabrics, stiff as paper or as
soft and comfortable as limp cloth, are made without knitting or weaving.