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What are synthetic fibres?

Chemistry | 7-14 yrs | Interactive

Definition of synthetic fibre

Synthetic fibers are man – made from chemicals. They are generally based on polymers and are stronger than natural and regenerated fibers.

Difference between natural and synthetic fibres

Synthetic or man – made fibres can easily be distinguished from natural fibres, such as silk, cotton and wool. Although natural fibres may also be made of polymers like cellulose and proteins, they don’t undergo any chemical changes during the manufacturing process and are used in their original form.

What are synthetic fibres made of?

Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, undergo changes in their chemical structure and composition, during the manufacturing process. Polymers such as regenerated cellulose, polycaprolactam, and polyethylene terephthalate, which have become familiar household materials under the trade names, Rayon, Nylon, and Dacron, respectively, are also made into numerous nonfibre products, ranging from cellophane envelope windows to clear plastic soft-drink bottles. As fibres, these materials are prized for their strength, toughness, resistance to heat and mildew, and ability to hold a pressed form.

Types of synthetic fibres

  1. Polyester is made from esters of dihydric alcohol and terpthalic acid.
  2. Acrylic fabrics are polycrylonitriles.
  3. Rayon is recycled wood pulp that is treated with chemicals like caustic soda, ammonia, acetone and sulphuric acid to survive regular washing and wearing.
  4. Acetate and Triacetate are made from wood fibers called cellulose and undergo extensive chemical processing to produce the finished product.
  5. Nylon is made from petroleum and is often given a permanent chemical finish that can be harmful.

Uses of synthetic fibres

Synthetic fibres play an important role in today’s world and are used either on their own or mixed with other synthetic or natural fibres to create fabrics or products for everyday use. Some uses are :

  1. Ropes
  2. Parachutes
  3. Fish Nets
  4. Carpets
  5. Tents
  6. Fillers in pillows
  7. Fabrics for everyday wear like lycra and spandex
  8. Blankets
  9. Warm and protective clothing for extreme climates
  10. Synthetic hair wigs

Advantages of synthetic fibres

Synthetic fibres are used because of their durable nature. Some of the advantages are :

  • They have good elasticity.
  • They do not wrinkle easily.
  • They are comparatively less expensive, more durable, require less maintenance and are easily available.
  • They are stronger and can handle heavy loads.

Disadvantages of synthetic fibres

  • Most are not heat resistant making them dangerous to wear near fire.
  • They do not allow air circulation, making them sticky, sweaty and uncomfortable to wear, during hot and humid climates.
  • They are non – biodegradable.
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