7 Properties of Nylon: Everything you Need to Know
Learn more about the material's key properties and selection considerations.
Nylon is the designation for a family of synthetic polymers composed of polyamides (repeating units linked by amide links). Nylon is a silk-like thermoplastic, usually made from petroleum, that can be melt-processed into fibers, films, or shapes. In addition, nylon polymers can be mixed with various additives to achieve different property variations. As a result, nylon polymers have found significant commercial applications in fabric and fibers, shapes, and films.
This article explains the different nylon properties, specifically nylon's lustrousness, elasticity, strength, damage resistance, resiliency, moisture resistance, and quick-drying.
Nylon is elastic because when it is above its melting temperatures, it is an amorphous solid or viscous fluid in which the chains approximate random coils. Below its melting temperature, nylon has amorphous regions that alternate with regions that are lamellar crystals. The amorphous regions contribute elasticity to the plastic.
Nylon already has basic high tensile strength and durability, making it suitable for applications that require the material to survive impacts. In some applications, nylon plastic is filled with 10-40% glass fibers to increase tensile strength further. While strength is increased in such situations, the glass fibers change the potential defects. No glass fill means that the plastic will bend and yield before a potential break. With the addition of fibers (especially in a higher percentage), the break (or failure) comes earlier, with minimal bending. However, for reinforced nylon, the resultant tensile strength can be up to 70% higher than normal nylon plastic.
Nylon is created from coal, water, and oxygen, combined with a polymer to make two chemicals: hexamethylene diamine and adipic acid (diacid). The two chemicals has six carbon backbones. One bond occurs when diacid and diamine alternate in the polymer chain. The strong bonds containing two very strong chemicals make nylon resistant to most chemicals.
Nylons are hygroscopic and absorb or desorb moisture as a function of ambient humidity. Variations in moisture content have several effects on the polymer. Firstly, the dimensions will change, but more importantly, moisture acts as a plasticizer, lowering the glass transition temperature (Tg), and, consequently the elastic modulus at temperatures below the Tg.
When dry, polyamide is an excellent electrical insulator. However, polyamide is hygroscopic. Therefore, water absorption will change some of nylon's properties, such as its electrical resistance. However, nylon is less absorbent than wool or cotton.
All nylon properties should be considered when using it. Nylon is used as a replacement for metal because it is cheap and flexible. It costs less to make and buy material made of nylon than metal. Also, since nylon is more flexible, nylon cleaning tools can clean hard-to-reach places where metal tools are not practical.
Nylon's chemical resistance property and its ability to withstand sterilization make it an excellent medical appliance product. It can therefore be used for catheters, bandages, hospital beds, walkers, and syringes.
Nylon's durability and heat and chemical resistance make it worthwhile for military equipment such as tents, uniforms, bags, and ropes. Because of nylon's durability, lightweight nature, and resistance to heat and chemicals it can even be used to make machine parts such as screws, nuts, and bolts. In addition, nylon is often used in the electronics industry for items such as circuit boards and electrical cords.
For more information see our guide on the Uses of Nylon.
The physical properties of nylon are stronger tensile strength, high-temperature resistance, and more friction resistance than more standard, non-engineering plastics. The physical properties are as follows:
- Tenacity: 4-9 gm/den dry, in wet 90% of dry.
- Elasticity: The breaking extension is 20 to 40%.
- Stiffness: 20-40 gm/density
- Moisture regain: 3.5-5%. Nylon is not absorbent due to crystallinity.
- Specific gravity: 1.14.
- Abrasion resistance: Excellent.
- Dimensional stability: Good.
- Softening point: Nylon 6,6 – 2290C and nylon 6 – 1490C.
- Melting point: Nylon 6,6 – 2520C and nylon 6 – 2150C.
- Resiliency: Excellent.
- Hand feel: Soft and smooth.
The chemical properties of nylon relative to exposure to various substances are as follows:
- Acid: Nylon attacked by mineral acids is disintegrated or almost dissolved. It is inert to dilute acetate acid and formic acids. It is dissolved in concentrated formic acid. Nylon is attacked by mineral acid but resistant to dilute boiling organic acid.
- Bleaches: Nylon is not attacked by oxidizing and reducing bleaches but may be harmed by chlorine and oxidizing solid bleaches.
- Organic solvent: Most organic solvents have little or no effect on nylon. Phenol metacresol and formic acid dissolve the fiber, but solvents used in stain removal and dry cleaning do not damage it.
- Alkali: Nylon is substantially inert to alkalis.
- Light: No discoloration. Nylon gradually loses strength.
- Biological: Neither micro organism nor moth larvae attack nylon.
- Electrical: High insulating properties leads to static charges on the fiber.
- Flammability: Burns slowly.
Yes, nylons have excellent resistance to many chemicals and hydrocarbons in normal usage. However, nylon is attached by oxidizing agents, organic acids, mineral acids, and aromatic alcohols. Nylon has excellent resistance to hydrocarbons, oils, cleaning solutions, and alkalis. It will absorb small amounts of water, methyl, ethyl, or isopropyl alcohols, and chlorinated solvents and plasticize to them.
Yes, nylon is able to retain its shape after washing. Nylon is popular not just for its elastic properties but also because it is durable, easy to clean, resistant to shrinking, and retains its shape even after being stretched or washed.
For more information, see our guide on nylon.
This article reviewed some of the key properties of nylon and what to consider when making a material selection. Xometry offers nylon sheets and rods in a range of different sizes. Visit our supplies page for all of your nylon material needs.
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