If you've come across the word 'polyamide' and felt it go in one ear and out the other, don't worry! It may sound like a complicated word, but it can be simple in truth. This article will explain the question: what kind of material is polyamide?
What Is Polyamide Fabric?
Fabrics composed of long chains of polyamide monomers fall under the umbrella term "polyamide fabric." Although NylonNylon is the most well-known type of polyamide fabric, many other variants exist.
These textiles are completely synthetic despite their origin in carbon-based molecules. They're not quite as organic as cotton or as synthetic as rayon. NylonNylon was created by the DuPont Company in the 1930s as a cheaper alternative to silk stockings.
First shown to the public at the 1939 New York World's Fair, this polyamide has since become widely used. Promotional materials from the manufacturer claimed that this fabric was indestructible and completely resistant to runs. So, DuPont planned to advertise their new synthetic fabric as "no-run" at first. When it was finally understood that nylon stockings were extremely vulnerable to runs, the material was renamed "neurone" and then "nylon." So that consumers would be able to correctly pronounce the name of this fabric, the I in "nylon" was changed to a "y" before mass production began.
Materials made of polyamide, such as NylonNylon, were widely used for parachute construction during WWII. After the war ended, however, there was a severe shortage of fabric, and many women resorted to making dresses out of old parachutes. The use of polyamide in women's clothing became widespread as a result, though initially only its blended forms were put to use.
The general public quickly learned that 100% NylonNylon wasn't ideal for use in textiles. This material is not very breathable, is easily damaged, and will melt at high temperatures. However, NylonNylon imparts unique benefits when blended with other fabrics, including elasticity and silkiness, which has led to the rise in the popularity of using this fabric in blends with other textiles like cotton, polyester, and wool.
NylonNylon had a 25 percent share of the global textile market in 1945, but its popularity had been waning for years. The environmental movement of the 1970s put a damper on the production of polyamide fabrics because they are typically made with crude oil, and as the novelty of fully synthetic fabrics waned, consumers began to lose interest in Nylon and other similar products.
The percentage of synthetic fibres made up of polyamide fabrics is expected to decrease from its current 12% down to 8% in the next few years. It is almost certain that production of NylonNylon and other polyamide fabrics will continue unabated throughout the 21st century due to the unique benefits that this fabric type provides.
Technically, the term "polyamide" can also refer to natural fibres like wool and silk. This is a chemical term for a molecule with chain-like sequences of amide bonds. Polyamides is the term chemists use to describe silk and wool, but most people associate it exclusively with Nylon.
Suppose you want to get down to basics. Polyamide fabrics are made from petroleum and chemicals. These polyamides are extracted from crude oil and are called diamine acid. It is then combined with adipic acid to create the polymer known as nylon salt.
As you can see, there are no natural ingredients used to create these materials, and you are putting harsh chemicals next to your skin. What makes them so great is that the fabric made from these ingredients is very stretchy and comfortable.
There is a 9 step process to make NylonNylon and other polyamide fabrics. The first step is to get some crude oil and extract the diamine acid from that product. Then the diamine acid is forced to mix with adipic acid to form the polymer called nylon salt.
Once crystallized, the salt is heated to form a very hot liquid. Then, that liquid is put through a metal spinneret and extruded into long fibres. After that, the fibres are put on a spool called a bobbin and sent to the stretching phase of the process.
This stretching phase increases the fibres' stretching ability and elasticity. When that part of the process is done, the fibres are put on another spool, called drawing, and sent to the spinning section.
Once the spinning is done, the fibres are ready to be placed into clothing material or other forms of fibre. Some fibres remain pure, and 100% are made into NylonNylon, similar clothing articles, etc. Finally, the fibres are blended with their counterparts made from other materials.
But, not all product results are consistent and will change from manufacturer to manufacturer.
If we had to answer, it would have to be yes. While manufacturers take great care to provide their customers with top-of-the-line clothing and fabrics by the yard, they can't change the fact that hundreds of harsh and toxic chemicals exist in polyamide fabrics.
Some of those toxic chemicals protect you from having your clothes catch on fire, shrink, and do other laundry ills you hate to deal with. Also, it is not just the toxic materials you have to worry about. Polyamides are plastic, and those fabrics come with all the properties you would normally find in plastic products.
But this problem is not restricted to just polyamide fabrics. All synthetic materials have the same issue and can be very toxic if you are not careful. In addition, some in-between fabrics like rayon can also be classified as toxic because of the chemicals used to create that material.
As long as the crude oil supply holds out, polyamide fabrics will be considered sustainable. However, it is unknown how large the crude oil supplies are global, so it could be five years or 50 years before manufacturers run out of crude oil and polyamide fibres.
It is said that natural products like cotton and linen are more sustainable than polyamide materials. But your guess would be as good as anyone else's guess when that crude oil supply will be fully depleted.
Also, if the demand for these products goes down, you can count on the supply of those fibres to last a lot longer. In other words, it is hard to say. In 1945 25% of the fabrics made in the world contained polyamide fibres. Today, that number has decreased to 12% due to environmental concerns.
Nylon and other polyamides do not biodegrade right away. It will take a couple of centuries before they fully disappear from the landfills or the sides of the roads. To keep the supply up, you can always recycle your synthetic clothing.
The best answer would be no. There are problems with the material as one byproduct is nitrous oxide, and that gas is said to be 300 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. It is 15 times more powerful than methane because it can trap more infrared radiation.
Then the minimum time nylon or polyamides need to disappear naturally is 30 years, but many of these products remain in the landfills for up to 200. That is not good for the environment or anyone's health.
We haven't mentioned the many harmful and harsh chemicals used to create these fabrics, and each one has its risks, including health. Also, if your fabrics end up in the oceans, larger fish will eat them and consume all the plastic found in those fabrics.
That is not a healthy diet for fish, and that consumption will impact the seafood supply. How much of the toxic chemicals are absorbed into your skin will depend on many factors. People with sensitive skin should be more worried about this issue than other skin types.
The Difference Between Polyamide and Nylon
Polyamide and nylon Plastics like nylon are made from polymers. Nylon was the first synthetic thermoplastic polymer to be widely used in industry. Its name, like the names of other synthetic fibres like cotton and rayon, was invented by DuPont. The concept of unravelling, or "No-Run," was behind the original choice of name. The original name, "Nuron," was changed to "Nilon," and then "Nylon" for ease of pronunciation.
Polyamide is a synthetic polymer that is composed entirely of amino acids. There are two kinds of polyamides: natural and synthetic. Natural polyamides like wool and silk are proteins. However, a material composition label's reference to "polyamide fabric" almost always means "nylon fabric," which is entirely man-made. In the context of textiles and apparel, the terms nylon and polyamide are often used synonymously. Polyamide six (PA 6) is another name for Nylon six.
The Different Types of Polyamides
The term "polyamide" is used to classify a wide variety of plastics that are popular due to their low cost, long lifespan, and high strength. There are many types of polyamides, each with its own unique properties, making polyamide fabrics applicable to a wide variety of settings.
PA 66 is the most widely used polyamide. Initially, it was patented by DuPont. It is classified as an aliphatic polyamide. Zytel is DuPont's brand name for polyamide 66 (PA 66). High strength, abrasion resistance, and impact resistance are just some of the features that set this thermoplastic apart as a high-performance material. DOMO Chemicals produces a plastic called Technol. The Technyl 4earth version is revolutionary, and it's also one of the most eco-friendly PA 66 fabrics available.
PA 6 is a type of polyamide that is different from the others. After PA 66, this variety of polyamide enjoys the greatest popularity. BASF's Ultramid polyamide is derived from PA 6 and is renowned for its robustness, rigidity, and thermal stability. RadiciGroup markets its polyamide six fibres and yarns under the trademark name Radiol. The Indian company Winmark Polymer Industries is another major PA 6 supplier worldwide.
Excellent mechanical, chemical, and physical properties make Polyamide 12 a useful resin. Arkema's Rilsamid is a high-performance material based on PA 12. It is primarily put to use in fuel transfer and braking systems.
A high-performance polymer resin made entirely from renewable resources is known as polyamide 11. Arkema manufactures it using vegetable castor oil and sells it under the trade name Rilsan PA11.
Polyphthalamide is a synthetic polyamide resin with excellent mechanical properties. In situations where high-temperature resistance is required, they are frequently used as a substitute for metals in areas such as powertrain components and electrical connectors. In addition to its widespread use in sports watches, appliances, automobiles, and electronics, Trogamid is a high-resistance polyamide developed by Evonik Industries. Solvay's high strength and stiffness polyamide is called Amodel Polyphthalamide (PPA). It can withstand harsh conditions like high humidity, heat, and chemicals.
Aramids, also known as aromatic polyamides, are extremely durable and resistant to high temperatures. The high-strength and heat-resistant synthetic fibres manufactured by DuPont and sold under the brand name Kevlar are used in bulletproof vests. DuPont's Nomex is another popular aramid brand name used to make flame-resistant clothing. Teijin's Technora is a high-strength, heat- and chemical-resistant polyamide brand name similar to DuPont's Nomex.
Polyamide Clothing Material
This is a low-priced fabric option. It's completely man-made and can be transformed into a wide range of fabrics for use in making garments like dresses, pants, sportswear, socks, nylon leggings, sweaters, and many more.
As a result of its strength and longevity, it is also commonly used to make fashionable accessories. Kevlar vests, like carpets, umbrellas, fishnets, sleeping bags, and so on, are made from polyamides. Polyamide-based fabrics have numerous applications.
Besides being a staple in the textile industry, polyamide chemicals also have many uses outside the textile industry in areas such as rope, etc. It's important that the fabric stretches, but caution should be used. DuPont discovered that NylonNylon can tear or run if stretched beyond its normal parameters. The fabric can only withstand so much stretching before it breaks. Another thing to remember is that this is a plastic material, so be careful around hot washers, dryers, and other heat sources.
The Process of Making a Polyamide Fabric
Although the specific manufacturing processes for polyamide fabrics can vary from one supplier to the next, all polyamide fabrics start with polyamide monomers. Although petroleum oil is the primary source of these monomers, polyamides can be made from a variety of other materials as well.
This fossil fuel, which goes by the name crude oil, is used to make a wide variety of plastics and fuels. But petroleum oil is a nonrenewable resource, and significant effort is expended to secure it. Furthermore, this primary component is a pollutant by design. This means that making polyamide fabrics is not sustainable.
Hexamethylenediamine, also known as diamine acid or simply diamine, is the most widely used monomer in the creation of polyamide fabrics. The combination of diamine and adipic acid yields NylonNylon, the most common form of polyamide fabric.
When these two substances come into contact with one another, a chemical reaction takes place and the diamine acid reforms into a polymer. When heated, the polymer known as nylon 6,6 melts into a salt.
The manufacturer of polyamide fabrics obtains the molten material and extrudes it through a metal spinneret. After the molten polyamide is extruded through the spinneret, it immediately solidifies, and the filament is wound onto a bobbin. Water is used in large quantities during the extrusion process to cool the molten NylonNylon. This polluted water may or may not be properly disposed of, depending on the manufacturer.
After the polyamide fibres have been loaded onto bobbins, they are stretched to increase their resilience and durability. After that, the polymer fiber's molecules are drawn into a parallel structure, and the fibres are loaded one next to the other on a spool. Following this step, the polyamide fibre is prepared to be spun into a yarn and used to make fabric. Finally, this fibre is woven together with other materials to create finished textile goods.
Polyamide Material Properties
Polyamide fabric stands out among other fabrics due to its exceptional qualities. It has many of the same uses as polyester in the textile and footwear manufacturing industries. Fabrics made from polyamide are durable, stretchy, and not too heavy. Because it is made entirely of synthetic materials, it is also impervious to the effects of many common chemicals as well as insects, moths, moulds, and fungi. Despite this, polyamide typically cannot withstand strong chemicals. It disintegrates in a wide variety of acids and solvents, including phenol. In addition to being extremely resilient and sturdy, polyamide fabric is also extremely rigid. Unlike natural fibres like cotton or wool, polyamide fabric is waterproof and quick-drying, making it ideal for use in activewear and swimwear. It takes dye well and produces vibrant colours.
Sunlight and UV degradation are both detrimental to polyamide fabric. When exposed to sunlight, the physical and mechanical properties of polyamide quickly deteriorate. So, many manufacturers of outdoor gear treat polyamide fabrics with a UV stabiliser to make them last longer in the sun. In addition to being highly flammable, polyamide is also highly conductive to heat. Do not wear polyamide while preparing food, welding, or handling fireworks.
Unlike more permeable synthetics like polyester and acrylic, polyamide fabric doesn't allow for much air circulation. On the other hand, it is resistant to moisture and can store heat. It also has a low absorbency, can wick away moisture, and dry very quickly. It's simple to maintain your polyamide clothing. However, in order to conserve water and avoid doing any permanent damage to the fabric, you should wash it in cold water. Wash it by hand in cold water, on a separate cycle if possible, and dry it flat.
Polyamide Fabric Benefits and Drawbacks
- Good resilience
- Good durability
- Good elasticity
- Moths, moulds, insects, fungi resistance
- Good abrasion resistance
- Good wrinkle resistance
- High tensile strength
- Moderate chemical protection
- Water repellant
- Easy to wash
- Easy to dye
- Poor absorbency
- Poor resistance to UV and sunlight
- Poor heat resistance
- Low thermal stability
- Low pilling resistance
- Low breathability
- Gathers static electricity
- Negative environmental impact
How Nylon Grew in Popularity?
Nylon was first introduced at the 1939 World's Fair as a fabric that was "stronger than steel." It was developed by DuPont as a more durable substitute for silk stockings. Since the company initially believed the new material to be immune to runs, they intended to market it under the name No Run. It was soon apparent, however, that this was not the case, and the name was changed to nuron, then nylon, and finally NylonNylon.
NylonNylon, a strong and durable fabric, was used to make parachutes for World War II soldiers, and after the war, women began repurposing the parachutes into fashionable dresses. Therefore, clothing made entirely of nylon quickly became the in thing. We now know that 100% NylonNylon is not ideal for women's clothing. It has poor air permeability, spoils quickly, and melts in high temperatures, making it unsuitable for a sunny day.
When compared to natural polyamides, however, NylonNylon did have one advantage: elasticity. NylonNylon provided a silkiness that was also stretchy, unlike wool or silk. So, manufacturers of textiles started combining NylonNylon with other fibres like cotton, wool, and polyester.
In the 1970s, the environmental movement had a significant effect on Nylon's success. Nylon, which had been produced from crude oil until recently, has become a socially unacceptable fabric. Therefore, here at Contrado, we avoid using NylonNylon. There is currently a decline in the synthetics industry, and polyamide fabric production accounts for only 12% of that.
The advantages of NylonNylon are still not completely disregarded. And despite the decline in interest, it seems unlikely to ever go away entirely. This is because nylon has so many applications and can be made into such thin sheets, from swimwear to sportswear to tights. Also, it's great for sculpting and softening.
Outside of Fashion
You might be surprised to learn that polyamide fabrics are used for things other than clothing. There are now established markets for polyamides in the automotive, household, and even food packaging sectors. In its early days of production, NylonNylon was hailed as a fantastic, flexible plastic for uses as varied as cooking utensils, fishing nets, and toothbrush bristles. Because of its low cost, nylon is widely used in consumer and transportation goods. Similar to how silk is still commonly used in stockings despite the high cost of production, NylonNylon continues to be used.
Aramids, a type of polyamide used to make flame-resistant clothing for the military, are also noteworthy. DuPont Corporation is the only manufacturer of aramid polyamides like Nomex and Kevlar.
Within the Environment
NylonNylon, like all other synthetics, isn't very eco-friendly. Environmentalists have a lot of reason to be worried about it because it is produced using the world's natural supply of crude oil. Although materials like Nomex and Kevlar remain indispensable, demand for NylonNylon has been on the decline since the 1970s.
Not only does Nylon production require a lot of oil, but it also requires a lot of cooling water, which isn't always disposed of properly. Since nylons aren't biodegradable either, the race is on to develop a greener method of manufacturing them. Scientists are currently investigating the possibility of using bacteria to synthesise a chemical that would negate the need for nitrous oxide.
Polyamide fabrics are soft, comfortable, and warm, but they are also toxic and somewhat risky to wear. Warm fabrics like these are worth packing for a camping trip in the mountains or elsewhere in the winter. The cost of your fabric or clothing purchases may vary widely depending on where you do your shopping. This sort of fabric may be pricey, but it is well worth it when the temperature drops.