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Synthetic (Nylon) and natural (Protein) polyamides are made by polymerizing an acid group (COO-) from one molecule with an amine (NH2) on another molecule. Two common natural polyamides include wool and silk[1]. The most famous synthetic polyamides are nylon 6,6, and nylon 6. Nylon 6,6 was developed a textile fiber, called fiber #66, in the early 1930s by a scientist working at DuPont, W. H. Carothers. The name “nylon 6,6” was adopted by DuPont in 1938 when the polymer went into mass production. Nylon 6 was developed in Germany by chemist Paul Schlack, who worked for I.G. Farben and though the chemistry is slightly different, the final material has similar properties to nylon 6,6. Nylons are thermoplastic resins that are characterized by their high degree of toughness, strength and durability along with their resistance to chemicals and heat. They are manufactured as bristles, fibers, molding powders, sutures, adhesives, and coatings. The most important examples of polyamides are the various kinds of nylon. See also aramid.

Synonyms and Related Terms

PA; nylon; protein; aramid; poliamida (Esp.); polyamide (Fr.); poliammide (It.); poliamida (Port.)

Examples: Nylon® [Du Pont]; Technyl® [Rhodia]; Ultramid® [BASF]; Amilan® [Toray]; Durethan® [Lanxess];


  • Fibers, textiles, sutures
  • Film
  • Adhesives, coatings

Personal Risks

  • Should not be ingested[2].
  • Safe for handling with bare hands.

Collection Risks

  • While Wool and Silk can tarnish Silver due to the presence of sulfur in the molecule, synthetic polyamides are generally safe for use near artwork.
  • Synthetic fabrics may be sensitive to creep in the presence of temperature fluctuations.

Environmental Risks

Manufacturing process releases nitrous oxide. Synthetic polyamides are generally considered to be non-biodegradable, however, Nylon 2–nylon 6 is; naturally occurring polyamides are biodegradable. These materials can be recycled[3].

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Soluble in formic acid, dimethylformamide, m-cresol.
  • Insoluble in methanol, diethyl ether, hydrocarbons.
  • Burns with orange-yellow flame, blue smoke and smells like burnt horn.


Properties of Synthetic Fibers

General Characteristics of Polymers

Physical Properties for Selected Thermoplastic Resins

Resources and Citations

  1. https://www.tortoiseandladygrey.com/2016/02/01/environmental-impacts-nylon/
  2. https://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/349/polyamide-kitchen-utensils-keep-contact-with-hot-food-as-brief-as-possible.pdf
  3. E. Richardson, G.Martin, P.Wyeth. (2014) Effects of heat on new and aged polyamide 6,6 textiles during pest eradication. Polymer degradation and stability 107 262-269.
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971
  • Theodore J. Reinhart, 'Glossary of Terms', Engineered Plastics, ASM International, 1988
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Dictionary of Fiber & Textile Technology (older version called Man-made Fiber and Textile Dictionary, 1965), Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Charlotte NC, 1990
  • Rosalie Rosso King, Textile Identification, Conservation, and Preservation, Noyes Publications, Park Ridge, NJ, 1985
  • Pam Hatchfield, Pollutants in the Museum Environment, Archetype Press, London, 2002
  • Thomas C. Jester (ed.), Twentieth-Century Building Materials, McGraw-Hill Companies, Washington DC, 1995
  • www.nswpmith.com.au/historyofplastics.html

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