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NCSU Duo Develops Super-Strong Nylon

Two researchers at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Textiles, Raleigh, N.C., have created the strongest aliphatic nylon fibers known. Their goal is to develop economic alternatives to high-strength fibers such as aramids for use in ropes, parachutes or tires, among other products; or in composite materials used in high-temperature applications.

Alan Tonelli, Ph.D., KoSa Professor of Polymer Science; and Richard Kotek, Ph.D., assistant professor of textile engineering, chemistry and science, are using nylon 6,6 thermoplastic polymer, which is easier to work with than aramid; but it is difficult to stretch and align the fiber, and to remove the elasticity. Tonelli and Kotek dissolved the nylon 6,6 in a solution of gallium trichloride in order to dissolve the hydrogen bonds and stretch the polymer chains. "Once the fiber is created, it is soaked in water to wash away the gallium trichloride, allowing the hydrogen bonds to re-establish," Tonelli said.

"It looks promising," Kotek said. "Just on the first try, were getting strong fibers."

Tonelli said the fibers are as much as 10 times stronger than typical aliphatic nylons. He and Kotek also are looking at alternative solutions using nylon 6,6.

November 2004