Synthetic Fibres and Plastics

Synthetic Fibres

Did you know that almost 75% of the things we use come from synthetic fibres? For example, carpets, ropes, seat belts etc. are all made of synthetic fibres. But what are synthetic fibres? Let us find out more below.

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Synthetic Fibres Definition

Synthetic fibres are man-made fibres. The raw material used for making these fibres is petroleum. Hence another name for these fibres is ‘petrochemicals’. Small units called ‘polymers’ make up these fibres. ‘Monomer’ is the individual unit that makes up each polymer.

Semi-Synthetic Fibres

Semi-synthetic fibres derive from naturally-occurring fibres through a chemical process. The naturally occurring fibre is harvested, broken down, and then reconstructed. This is usually done using cellulose. Cellulose is a component that is abundant in plants. This cellulose is extracted from the plants, made soluble, and then spun into fibre.

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Advantages of Synthetic Fibres

  • Synthetic fibers have good elasticity.
  • They don’t wrinkle up easily.
  • Fabrics made from these fibres are less expensive, durable and readily available in comparison to natural fibers.
  • Synthetic fibers can handle the heavy load without breaking.
  • They don’t shrink.
  • Synthetic fibers blend well with other fibres.
  • They’re very absorbent.

Due to these advantages, synthetic fibers have become an important part of the textile industry. Can you list some more advantages?

Disadvantages of Synthetic Fibres

  • Synthetic fibers require attention while ironing since they tend to melt away easily.
  • Most of these fibres absorb very little. So, they stick to the body while sweating on hot summer days. Thus, making it uncomfortable to wear during such days.
  • Synthetic fibers are prone to catch fire very easily.
  • These fibres are non-biodegradable.

Have you noticed more disadvantages? If so, write them down and add to the list.

Synthetic Fibres Examples

Following are some of the most common types of synthetic fibres


Synthetic fibres - Rayon

  • Rayon is the first synthetic fiber. Its discovery was towards the end of the nineteenth century. It comes from the chemical treatment of wood pulp.
  • Since rayon is like silk but is cheaper than silk, it is thus called ‘poor man’s silk’.
  • Bedsheets and clothing materials are made from a combination of rayon with cotton.
  • Rayon is soft, absorbent and comfortable.
  • Carpets are made from a combination of rayon with wool.


Synthetic fibres - Nylon

  • We get the term ‘Nylon’ from the letters of ‘New York’ and ‘London’. The term was coined in 1931. Nylon comes from coal, water, and air.
  • It is very lustrous, easy to wash and elastic.
  • Nylon dries up quickly and maintains its shape.
  • Things such as seat belts of the car, sleeping bags, socks, ropes, etc.


  • Polyester comes from coal, water, air and petroleum.
  • It is made from repeating units of a chemical termed as esters.
  • It is very easy to wash and it remains wrinkle-free.
  • Terylene, a type of polyester is used is making dress materials.
  • Polyester maintains its shape and remains crisp.

Study Plastics as Material of Choice here.

Solved Example For You

Q. …….or ……… fibres is another name for synthetic fibres.

a. Man-made

b. Artificial

c. Both a. and b.

d. None of the above

Sol: c. Both a. and b.

Synthetic fibres are fibres which human beings prepare using chemicals. Small units that join together to form long chains make up these fibres. Hence the right options are artificial and man-made.

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