Chapter 6- Silk and Nylon

Silk Molecules and their Chemistry

       Silk and Nylon have been around for ages, but no one of their time period questioned what made them soft and stretchable. Silk is considered a protein, which means it is made up of amino acids; twenty-two to be exact. Each amino acid group contains an amino group (NH2), and an organic acid group (COOH). The three most common amino acids that form silk are glycine, alanine, and serine. In each amino acid structure their is a different compound attached to CH, H2N, and COOH. In glycine, hydrogen is attached; Alanine, CH3 is attached; and in serine, CH2OH is attached. All of these amino acids contribute to smoothness of the silk. It is estimated that these three amino acids make up eighty to eighty-five percent of silk in a repeating sequence. The rest of the amino acids that make up silk, about fifteen to twenty percent, are side groups that can chemically bond with dye molecules, causing the beautiful colors of silk that make it famous. In Nylon, a synthetic version of silk, consists of two different monomer units-one that consists of two acid groups and the other with two amine groups. Each structure comes together in an alternating chain, diaminohexane and adipic acid strain.

History of Silk and Nylon

The history of silk goes back to around 2640 B.C, when Princess His-ling-shih concluded that a piece of thread could be unwound from an insect cocoon that had fallen in her tea. Thus observation thrust the silk business into full gear in China. The Chinese gathered the silkworms from the mulberry bush, upon which they fed, and began producing silk like crazy. The method of obtaining the magnificent silk thread spread rapidly across China. Usually, silk was saved for more prominent people in Chinese society, but over the course of time, common people were allowed to wear clothing made of silk. It was so high valued that it was even used as a form of currency! Over the years, silk had spread slowly by trade, so not many other countries could receive; mainly only the ones near China and Japan. Even in North America, the United States had tried to cultivate a method to create silk. Even though it failed, the U.S. could still weave and spin silk causing them to be one the largest manufacturers of silk goods in the twentieth century. Nylon had got its start when a different type of artificial silk was needed. Organic chemist, Wallace Carothers, was hired by the Du Pont company to do independent research. He wanted to work with polymers and thus creating nylon. When nylon made its debut in 1938 as toothbrush bristles, Carothers knew nylon would be a big success. After toothbrushes came nylon stockings in 1939. They were so popular with women that it was mass produced.

My Opinion

       I feel like silk isn’t used as much as it was once. Most uses for silk, in today’s society, are mainly for like prom, homecoming, and even silk robes. It isn’t has prominent as it used to be. Nylon, on the other hand I feel is still prominent in today’s society because a lot of women work office and desk jobs where they are required to dress professionally, meaning that they wear hosiery.


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One thought on “Chapter 6- Silk and Nylon

  1. You are correct to thing that Nylon is used quite a lot, but wrong when it comes to Silk. It is used almost as much as it did way back when. Silk still happens to be a sign of the wealthy. Anywhere from Silk robes to silk blouses to silk trousers. The prom and homecoming dresses you might be thinking of aren’t even a true silk either. Otherwise they’d cost a whole lot more!

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