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