Though natural fibres have been around for thousands of years, the discovery of synthetic fibres is a relatively new occurrence. Developed as a way to offset some of the “problems” caused by natural fibres such as moths, wrinkles, and wear, rayon and nylon were created nearly 100 years ago.
Though these fibres came to fruition a century ago, scientists had been trying to make artifical fibres for nearly 200 years before. The first attempt at such a feat was by a Swiss chemist named Audemars who developed the first patented artificial fibre in England in 1855. The fibre was created by dissolving the fibrous inner bark of a mulberry tree and adding chemicals, which in turn produced cellulose.
Many of the first attempts at creating synthetic fibres were aimed at making artifical silk. It wasn’t until the creation of rayon in the early 20th century that this particular goal was met. Companies had been using cellulose for a few decades before it was used for the creation of rayon. In 1893, Arthur D. Little made film from acetate cellulose and in 1910 Henry Dreyfus and Camille made motion picture film from acetate.
In 1924, however, the Celanese Company became the first manufacturer to turn cellulose into rayon and put it to use in the textile industry. The invention was significant since silk prices at the time were at an all-time high.
Rayon – which mimicked all of the properties of silk – could be developed quicker sold at half the price.
By the 1965, manufactured fibres fulfilled 40 per cent of the US’s fibre needs. Today, fibres such as rayon continue to grow in popularity and continue to be considered a viable alternative to natural fibres.