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Synthetic fiber

Synthetic fibres are the result of extensive research by scientists to improve upon naturally occurring animal and plant fibres used in making cloth and rope.

In general, synthetic (manmade) fibres are created by forcing, usually through extrusion, fibre forming materials through holes (called spinnerets) into the air, forming a thread. Before synthetic fibres were developed, artificial (manufactured) fibres were made from cellulose, which comes from plants.

The first artificial fibre, known as artificial silk from 1855 onwards, became known as viscose around 1894, and finally rayon in 1924. A similar product known as cellulose acetate was discovered in 1865. Rayon and acetate are both artificial fibres, but not truly synthetic, being made from wood. Although these artificial fibres were discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, successful modern manufacture began much later (see the dates below).

Nylon, the first synthetic fibre, made its debut in the United States as a replacement for silk, just in time for World War II rationing. 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.

Common synthetic fibres include:

Specialty synthetic fibres include:

Other synthetic materials used in fibres include:

Modern fibres that are made from older artificial materials include:

  • Glass Fiber is used for:
    • industrial, automotive, and home insulation (Fiberglass)
    • reinforcement of composite and plastics
    • specialty papers in battery separators and filtration
  • Metallic fiber (1946) is used for:
    • adding metallic properties to clothing for the purpose of fashion (usually made with composite plastic and metal foils)
    • elimination and prevention of static charge build-up
    • conducting electricity to transmit information
    • conduction of heat


  • The original source of this article and much of the synthetic fiber articles (copied with permission) is Whole Earth magazine, No. 90, Summer 1997.

See also

  • Inventory of Synthetic Fibers
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Synthetic_fiber". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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