The Many Applications of Polyester From 1941 to The Present

When Wallace Carothers and his team discovered polyester in 1930, they were working for DuPont. They were on the verge of discovering nylon and DuPont wanted them to continue on that track so they set aside the discovery of polyester and continued on the more promising nylon research.

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Then in 1939, a group of British scientists working for Imperial Chemical Industries “ICI” using the writings of Carothers continued to experiment with his findings on polyester till they developed Terylene Polyester and had it patented. At that time, ICI and DuPont had an agreement that was signed in 1929 to share information about patents and all research developments. DuPont and ICI were competitors since the late 1920’s and in 1952 the agreement was dissolved. After the development of nylon DuPont purchased the U.S. rights for further development of polyester in 1945. In 1950 a pilot plant at the Seaford, Delaware facility to produce Dacron Fiber was established. This plant would produce DuPont’s version of polyester.

DuPont’s research into polyester led to a full range of trademarked products such as fibers, films miracle sheets and plastics. These products are derived mainly from petroleum.

Polyester in its material form was considered a miracle fiber. You could wash it and crumble it and it did not wrinkle. The term wash and wear was born. Polyester marketers went on to claim that you could wear a piece of polyester clothing for as many as 68 days in a row and it would still look good.

Polyester was very inexpensive and very easy to produce. A large number of companies started to produce inexpensive polyester clothing and other items. Fabrics that are made from polyester thread or yarn are used in apparel and home furnishings. Those products range from shirts, pants, underwear, jackets, hats, bed sheets, blankets, upholstered furniture and computer mouse pads. Polyester fibers are used as insulating and cushioning material in pillows and comforters. They are also used for padding for upholstery.

Industrial polyester fibers, yarns and ropes are used as reinforcements for conveyor belts, safety belts, coated fabrics and plastic reinforcements with high-energy absorption.

Some other uses for polyester are films, filters, insulation for wire, canoes, tarpaulins, holograms, liquid crystal displays, insulating tapes and dielectric film for capacitors. Polyesters are also used as a finish on high quality wood products like pianos, guitars and yacht interiors.

Unsaturated polyester can be used as casting materials such as fiberglass laminating resins and in non-metallic auto body fillers. They can also be used in bodies of boats and yachts and also as body parts for cars.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I was working in a commercial print shop and we would print different designs and pictures on special paper and then send these designs to a factory that produced polyester clothing and bed sheets. They would transfer these designs from paper to polyester material using heat and pressure and turn them into clothing and bedding. The color on the paper was very subdued but when applied to material they would explode into bright colors. I still have one shirt in my closet from that time just to remember it by.

The polyester industry expanded very rapidly in the late 60’s and early 70’s. That was the age of the discos and everyone that went to a disco would wear polyester clothing. Unfortunately the popularity of polyester only lasted for a few years and started to lose its popularity in the mid 1970’s as the movement for more natural products started to surface. Polyester developed a reputation as a cheap and uncomfortable fabric to wear.

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