Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers, based on aliphatic or semi-aromatic polyamides. Nylon is a thermoplastic silky material that can be melt-processed into fibers, films or shapes.:2
Nylon was the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer. DuPont began its research project in 1930. The first example of nylon (nylon 6,6) was produced using diamines on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Hume Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station. In response to Carothers' work, Paul Schlack at IG Farben developed nylon 6, a different molecule based on caprolactam, on January 29, 1938.:10
Nylon was first used commercially in a nylon-bristled toothbrush in 1938, followed more famously in women's stockings or "nylons" which were shown at the 1939 New York World's Fair and first sold commercially in 1940. During World War II, almost all nylon production was diverted to the military for use in parachutes and parachute cord. Wartime uses of nylon and other plastics greatly increased the market for the new materials.
Nylon is made of repeating units linked by amide links similar to the peptide bonds in proteins. Commercially, nylon polymer is made by reacting monomers which are either lactams, acid/amines or stoichiometric mixtures of diamines (-NH2) and diacids (-COOH). Mixtures of these can be polymerized together to make copolymers. Nylon polymers can be mixed with a wide variety of additives to achieve many different property variations. Nylon polymers have found significant commercial applications in fabric and fibers (apparel, flooring and rubber reinforcement), in shapes (molded parts for cars, electrical equipment, etc.), and in films (mostly for food packaging).