Synthetic means made by chemical synthesis,
especially to imitate a natural product. In other words,
something resulting from synthesis rather than occurring naturally.
Advantages of Synthetic Fibers:
Synthetic fibers are more durable than most natural
fibers and they readily pick-up different dyes. In addition, many
synthetic fibers offer consumer-friendly functions such as stretching,
waterproofing and stain resistance. Sunlight, moisture and oils from
human skin cause all fibers to break down and wear away. Natural fibers
are much more sensitive than synthetic blends.
Disadvantages of Synthetic Fibers:
Most of synthetic fibers' disadvantages are related
to their low melting temperature: Synthetic fibers burn more
readily than natural. They are prone to heat damage and melt
relatively easily. Although we are not certain, we believe many of
them are non-biodegradable and are not as good for the environment in
comparison to natural fibers.
Synthetic fibers or fibres are the result of
extensive research by scientists to improve on naturally occurring
animal and plant fibers. In general, synthetic fibers are created by
extruding fiber forming materials through spinnerets into air and water,
forming a thread. Before synthetic fibers were developed, artificially
manufactured fibers were made from polymers obtained from petro
chemicals. These fibers are called synthetic or artificial fibers.
Some fibers are manufactured from plant-derived cellulose.
This category of fiber is also sometimes referenced
as man-made fibers.
Synthetic fibers are made from synthesized polymers
or small molecules. The compounds that are used to make these fibers
come from raw materials such as petroleum based chemicals or
petrochemicals. These materials are polymerized into a long, linear
chemical that bond two adjacent carbon atoms. Differing chemical
compounds will be used to produce different types of fibers.
Synthetic fibers account for about half of all
fiber usage, with applications in every field of fiber and textile
technology. Although many classes of fiber based on synthetic polymers
have been evaluated as potentially valuable commercial products, four of
them - nylon, polyester, acrylic and polyolefin - dominate the market.
History of Synthetic Fibers:
The first successful commercial process was
developed in 1894 by English chemist Charles Frederick Cross, and his
collaborators Edward John Bevan and Clayton Beadle. They named the fiber
"viscose", because the reaction product of carbon disulfide and
cellulose in basic conditions gave a highly viscous solution of
xanthate. The first commercial viscose rayon was produced by the UK
company Courtaulds Fibers in 1905. The name "rayon" was adopted in 1924,
with "viscose" being used for the viscous organic liquid used to make
both rayon and cellophane.
Nylon was developed by Wallace Carothers, an
American researcher at the chemical firm DuPont in the 1930s. It soon
made its debut in the United States as a replacement for silk, just in
time for the introduction of rationing during World War II. Its novel
use as a material for women's stockings overshadowed more practical
uses, such as a replacement for the silk in parachutes and other
military uses like ropes.
The first polyester fiber was introduced by
John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson, British chemists working
at the Calico Printers' Association, in 1941. They produced and patented
the first polyester fiber which they named Terylene, also known
as Dacron, equal to or surpassing nylon in toughness and
resilience. ICI and DuPont went on to produce their own versions
of the fiber.
Man-made fibers include
Synthetic Polymer: Acrylic, Aramid
(Twaron), Kevlar, Technora (Nomex), Microfiber, Modacrylic, Nylon,
Olefin, Polyester, Polyethylene (Dyneema, Spectra), Spandex, Vinylon,
Semi-synthetic: Acetate, Diacetate, Lyocell,
Modal, Rayon, Triacetate
Above is a partial list, and new are created on
Not all fibers are appropriate for the apparel or
synthetic fiber research section for additional resources.
Learn more in our
textile fiber definitions section.
Learn more about
textile fibers and suppliers for the apparel industry.