Polymer Fibres, Chemistry tutorial

Polymer fibres are a subset of man-made fibres that are depend on synthetic chemicals (often  from  petrochemical  sources)  rather  than arising  from  natural  materials  through a  merely  physical  procedure. It is significant to point out that fibres are always made of polymers which are arranged into crystals. They have to be able to pack into a regular arrangement in order to line up as fibres. (Actually, fibres are really a type of crystal, a really long kind of crystal.). A polymeric fibre is a polymer whose chains are stretched out straight (or close to straight) and lined up next to each other, all along the similar axis.

Definition of Polymer Fibres

Polymer fibres are a subset of man-made fibres that are depend on synthetic chemicals (often from petrochemical sources) rather than arising from natural substances through a purely physical procedure.

Kinds of Synthetic Polymers

(i) Olefins

Olefin comprises the varieties of polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene. A extremely light fibre, Olefin particularly resembles wool; it is soil resistant and is a good heat insulator. Herculon and Vectra are trade names.

(ii) Acrylics

Acrylics are made from petroleum. They have wool as fibres. It isn't as strong as polyester/nylon but it is soft and warm to handle. It washes and dries clean well. It is extremely resistant to UV light but sensitive to heat. It is moth proof. Modacrylics are as well named since they have been chemically modified to offer good flame resistance. They don't wrinkle or crease easily. It can shrink through hot heat. Trade names comprise (unmodified) Acrilian, Orlon, Verel, Sef, Zefran, and Dynel (that as well comes modified).

(iii) Polyesters

Polyester is a petroleum/oil byproduct. It is extremely strong and simple to wash. It dries rapidly and has good shape retention. It is shrink and crease resistant. It is opposed to sunlight, perspiration and moths and has a low absorbency. A light fibre resembling wool or silk, polyester is often blended through natural fibres. It is an perfect fibre for sheeting when mixed with cotton. Dacron, Fortrel, and Kodel are trade names. Dacron is employed as a substitute for the base in cushions and upholstery.

(iv) Polyamide (nylon)

Nylon is made from coal, tar and petroleum. It is an extremely strong resilient fibre through high strength and good elasticity. It drapes well and doesn't absorb moisture and doesn't shrink. It tends to magnetize dirt, but it is simple to wash and is crease resistant. It has a poor resistance to UV light. It is one of the 1st and most helpful synthetics. Many kinds are now obtainable. It is often employed in blends. Ace, Antron and Cordura are familiar trade names. It is utilized extensively in carpeting.

(v) Fibre Blends

Two or  more  fibres  can be  joined in  one  yarn  to  maximize  the strengths and  minimize the weaknesses of each. For instance, natural and artificial fibres can be joined to keep the texture and appearance of the natural yarn while gaining the durability and dirt resistance of the synthetic. Many man-made and synthetic fibres are made to imitate natural fibres as their processing can give alike properties generally at a decreased cost.



Polyethylene is probably the polymer we see most in daily life. Polyethylene is the most popular plastic in the world. This is the polymer from that grocery bags, shampoo bottles, children's toys, and even bullet proof vests are made. For these a versatile material, it has an extremely easy structure, the simplest of all commercial polymers. A molecule of polyethylene is nothing more than a long chain of carbon atoms, through 2 hydrogen atoms connected to each carbon atom. 

Sometimes several of the carbons, in its place of having hydrogen joined to them, will have long chains of polyethylene attached to them. This is termed branched, or low-density polyethylene, or LDPE. When there is no branching, it is described linear polyethylene, or HDPE. Linear polyethylene is much stronger than branched polyethylene, but branched polyethylene is cheaper and easier to make.

Linear polyethylene is normally produced with molecular weights in the range of 200,000 to 500,000, but it can be made even higher. Polyethylene through molecular weights of 3 to 6 million is termed to as ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE. UHMWPE can be employed to make fibres that are so strong and are utilized in bullet proof vests. Huge sheets of it can be employed instead of ice for skating rinks.

Polyethylene is vinyl polymer, made from the monomer ethylene. Branched polyethylene is frequently made via free radical vinyl polymerisation. Linear polyethylene is made through a more complicated procedure termed Ziegler-Natta polymerisation. UHMWPE is made using metallocene catalysis polymerisation.

But Ziegler-Natta polymerisation can be employed to make LDPE, too. Through copolymerising ethylene monomer through an alkyl-branched comonomer such as one gets a copolymer that has short hydrocarbon branches. Copolymers like this are termed linear low-density polyethylene, or LLDPE. BP produces LLDPE using a co-monomer by the catchy name 4-methyl-1-pentene, and sells it under the trade name Innovex¨. LLDPE is often utilized to create things as plastic films.


Polypropylene is one of those rather versatile polymers. It serves double duty, both as plastic and fibre. As a plastic it is employed to make things as dishwasher-safe food containers. It can do this since it is stable to heat below 160oC. Polyethylene, a more common plastic, will anneal at around 100oC that means that polyethylene dishes will warp in the dishwasher. As a fibre, polypropylene is utilized to make indoor-outdoor carpeting, the type that we always discover around swimming pools and miniature golf courses. It works well for outdoor carpet since it is simple to create coloured polypropylene, and since polypropylene doesn't absorb water, like nylon.

Structurally, it's a vinyl polymer, and is similar to polyethylene, only that on every other carbon atom in the backbone chain has a methyl group attached to it. Polypropylene can be made from the monomer propylene by Ziegler-Natta polymerisation and by metallocene catalysis polymerisation.

Research is being conducted on using metallocene catalysis polymerization to synthesise   polypropylene. Metallocene catalysis polymerisation can do some pretty amazing things for polypropylene. Polypropylene can be made with different tacticities. Most polypropylene we use is isotactic. This means that all the methyl groups are on the same side of the chain, like this: But sometimes we use atactic polypropylene. Atactic means that the methyl groups are placed randomly on both sides of the chain like this:

However, by using special metallocene catalysts, it is believed that we can make polymers that contain blocks of isotactic polypropylene and blocks of atactic polypropylene in the similar polymer chain, as is shown in the picture:

This polymer is rubbery, and makes a good elastomer. This is since the isotactic blocks will form crystals by themselves. But since the isotactic blocks are joined to the atactic blocks, the little hard clumps of crystalline isotactic polypropylene are tied mutually via soft rubbery tethers of atactic polypropylene. Certainly atactic polypropylene would be rubbery with no assist from the isotactic blocks, but it will not be extremely strong. The hard isotactic blocks hold the rubbery isotactic material mutually, to provide the substance more strength. Most types of rubber have to be   cross linked to provide them strength, but not polypropylene elastomers.

Elastomeric polypropylene, as this copolymer is termed, is a type of thermoplastic elastomer. Though, until the research is completed, this kind of polypropylene wont is commercially available.

Poly (vinyl chloride) PVC

Poly (vinyl chloride) is the plastic recognized at the hardware store as PVC. This is the PVC   from that pipes are made, and PVC pipe is everywhere. The plumbing in modern day structures is probably PVC pipe. PVC pipe is that rural high schools through tiny budgets use to make goal posts for their football fields. But there's more to PVC than just pipe. The 'vinyl' siding employed on houses is made of poly (vinyl chloride). Inside the house, PVC is employed to make linoleum for the floor. In the seventies, PVC was frequently utilized to make vinyl car tops. PVC is helpful since it resists 2 things that are opposite of each other: fire and water. Because of its water resistance it is employed to make raincoats and shower curtains, and of course, water pipes. It has flame resistance, too, because it contains chlorine. When we try to burn PVC, chlorine atoms are liberated, and chlorine atoms inhibit combustion.

Structurally, PVC is a vinyl polymer. It is alike to polyethylene, but on every other carbon in the backbone chain, one of the hydrogen atoms is swapped through a chlorine atom. It is generated via the free radical polymerization of vinyl chloride.

PVC was 1 of those odd discoveries that actually had to be made twice. It seems around a hundred years ago, a few German entrepreneurs decided they were going to make loads of cash lighting people's homes through lamps fueled via acetylene gas. Would you believe it?, right about the time they had produced tons of acetylene to sell to  everyone  who was going to buy their lamps, new efficient electric generators were developed that made the price of electric lighting drop so low that the acetylene lamp business was terminated. That left a lot of acetylene lying around.

So in the year 1912 one German chemists, Fritz Klatte decided to do something through it, and reacted several acetylene by hydrochloric acid (HCl). Now, this reaction will generate vinyl chloride, but at that time no one knew what to do by it, so he put it on the shelf, where it polymerized over time. Not knowing what to do by the PVC he had just discovered, he told his bosses at his company, Greisheim Electron, who had the material patented in Germany. They never figured out utilize for PVC, and in the year 1925 their patent expired. Though, in the year 1926 the very next year, an American chemist; Waldo Semon was working at B.F. Goodrich when he separately invented PVC. But unlike the earlier chemists, it dawned on him that this new material would make a perfect shower curtain. He and his bosses at B.F. Goodrich patented PVC in the United States. Tons of new utilizes for this wonderful waterproof substance followed, and PVC was a smash hit the 2nd time around.

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