Nylon Evolves into a New Polymer

Nylon Gives Way into a New Polymer

Nylon captivated the world’s attention when “Miss Chemistry” modeled nylon hosiery that claimed to be “better than silk” at the New York World's Fair in 1939.1 The world’s first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer, it was invented by two scientists at DuPont, Julian Hill and Wallace Carothers, after more than one hundred attempts.

The adoption of nylon rapidly expanded as the marketplace created new applications for this lightweight, strong and inexpensive material.

Allied Forces used nylon as a replacement for silk in their parachutes and flak vests. Nylon is also used in toothbrush bristles, combs, dresses, food packaging films, tires, and more. Nylon helped to revolutionize the fashion industry and it was only the beginning for chemistry of this type, as scientists and engineers continued to explore new ideas that would build on the functionality of this polymer known to researchers as Nylon 66.2

A Need for More

As technology evolved towards more portable consumer devices, and more sustainable automobiles, for example, the demand for lighter-weight, more durable plastics tailored for these new uses arose.

Scientists and engineers responded by innovating new polymers at the molecular level. Innovation to perfect attributes like water resistance, light-weight, high-temperature-use, flexibility and others helped polymers fulfill their promise.

DuPont™ Zytel® resin is one of those advanced polymers, with applications across a broad spectrum of industries.

From Nylons to Gold Medals

In 1996, American sprinter Michael Johnson was the fastest man alive. He blazed his way to gold in the 200m and 400m at the Atlanta Olympics, becoming the first man to achieve that feat.

On his feet? Now-famous, Golden Nike® shoes made of DuPont™ Zytel®, a highly advanced version of nylon, that weighed less than 3 oz. The shoes weighed next to nothing, yet were stiff and strong enough to withstand the forces of an Olympic sprinter accelerating to top speed.

That’s just one of the fascinating applications for Zytel®:

  • Daimler Benz just used Zytel® resin to create the world’s first polymer oil pan. It weighs 2.8 lbs. less than an aluminum pan, is stiffer, and doesn’t require welding.3
  • Lenovo® IdeaPad® U550 laptop uses DuPont™ Zytel® HTN for its casing instead of ABS plastic. It’s stronger, lighter, and 25 percent thinner.4
  • Racecar drivers are safer with Zytel® RS HANS (head and neck support) devices that weigh 30 percent less than their predecessors and the flexibility of Zytel® makes exiting the car in an emergency faster.5

And while Zytel® has been around almost as long as Nylon, it’s recently been overhauled and updated for a 21st century marketplace. It’s 3-D printable. It’s keeping food fresher, making computers stronger, and helping to make our globe greener.

Need more proof of the ever growing uses and importance of Zytel®? Look no further than Jose-Miguel Beltran, Global Product Specialist for Zytel® and Crastin® resin. He’s been with DuPont for more than four decades and says, “If you look at an old brochure, there were maybe 20 products that you could use Zytel® for. Now we have more than 300.” That continued innovation will help ensure more applications and higher performance.


1 http://digital.hagley.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A2160585#page/1/mode/1up

2 https://www.chemheritage.org/distillations/magazine/nylon-a-revolution-in-textiles

3 http://www.dupont.com/industries/automotive/powertrain-engine-system/case-studies/zytel-serial-production.html

4 http://www.dupont.com/products-and-services/plastics-polymers-resins/thermoplastics/case-studies/thermoplastics-for-electronics.html

5 http://www2.dupont.com/media/en-us/news-events/january/hans-racing-zytel.html