Summary Blog #1 – Silk & Nylon

Penny Le Couter and Jay Burreson make an eye-catching chapter on how silk shaped the earth we live in today. All the smuggling, trading, angry mish-mosh for this material surely has made a little nook of history.
Imagine this – 552 monks with hollowed out canes concealing silkworm eggs and mulberry seeds. These monks traveled from China to Constantinople with their life on the line if they were found with these things. Pretty weird, huh? This became the first recorded industrial espionage for the valuable production of silk from the silkworms and mulberry plant. The properties of silk were so valuable in fact that taxes and/or rewards were sometimes paid in silk. By golly, there is even the Silk Road for this precious material. This smooth material became the basis of Renaissance Movement which led to human growth through art, fashion, and furnishing. Even kings such as Louis XI in 1466 found silk to be treasurable, exempting silk weavers in the city of Lyons from tax.
But all that for what? Silk? What makes it so special? Silk is a polymer – macromolecule made up of repeating units of protein polymers and amino acids. Proteins are made from 22 different a-amino acids, which has amino group (NH2) group on the carbon atom of the alpha carbon. There is an R group (also known as a side group or side chain) attached on the side from a combination of atoms for each amino acid. The distinguishing factor between this polymer and others is the glycine, serine, glycine, alanine, glycine, and alanine in a zigzagging pattern.
The attraction between the side-by side protein chains hold silk molecules together, producing a pleated sheet structure that fit together snuggly. These structures make a material that is flexible, resistant to stretching, and has a uniform surface that gives off a smooth surface and a luster look. Side groups can easily chemically bond with dye, so silk is also famous for deep, rich, colorfast hues.
But after a while, the source of silk was becoming a little difficult to obtain and too laborious people though. For this reason Carother and his coworkers studied types of polymers and their properties. After long years of hard work, they produced polyamides, which are polymer units held together through amide linkages. The elimination of water molecules between two molecules is the same in silk, just with different molecules. This synthetic silk became to be called nylon; it lead to the development of toothbrushes, stockings, fishing lines, surgical sutures, coating for electrical wires, and even military tactics.
Now-a-days, people are so caught up in the synthetic things or whatever is cheaper, silk has not much use. The rich, prominent, posh people buy it to show their status, but other than that, there is not much use for this material.
Even silk seems as if it’s a fragile kind of cloth, it has a strong, sturdy background of how it impacted the world, even if it’s not exactly noticeable at the moment.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Summary Blog #1 – Silk & Nylon

  1. gracehstafford

    I really love that you have your own voice in your writing. It made it so much easier and enjoyable to read and understand!

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