Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber. Because it is produced from naturally occurring polymers, it is neither a truly synthetic fiber nor a natural fiber; it is a semi-synthetic or artificial fiber. Rayon is known by the names viscose rayon and modal in the textile industry.
Some major rayon fiber uses include apparel (e.g. Aloha shirts, blouses, dresses, jackets, lingerie, linings, scarves, suits, neckties, hats, socks), the filling in Zippo lighters, furnishings (e.g. bedspreads, bedsheets, blankets, window treatments, upholstery, slipcovers), industrial uses (e.g. medical surgery products, non-woven products, tire cord), and other uses (e.g. yarn, feminine hygiene products, diapers, towels). Rayon is a major feedstock in the production of carbon fiber.
The fact that nitrocellulose is soluble in organic solvents such as ether and acetone made it possible for Georges Audemars to develop the first "artificial silk" in about 1855, but his method was impractical for commercial use. Commercial production started in 1891, but the result was flammable and more expensive than acetate or cuprammonium rayon. Because of this, production was stopped before World War I. It was briefly known as "mother-in-law silk." Nathan Rosenstein invented the spunize process by which he turned rayon from a hard fiber to a fabric. This allowed rayon to become a popular raw material in textiles.
Acetate method 
Paul Schützenberger discovered that cellulose could be reacted with acetic anhydride to form cellulose acetate. The triacetate is only soluble in chloroform making the method expensive. The discovery that hydrolyzed cellulose acetate is soluble in more polar solvents, like acetone, made production of cellulose acetate fibers cheap and efficient.
Cuprammonium method 
The Swiss chemist Matthias Eduard Schweizer (1818–1860) discovered that tetraaminecopper dihydroxide could dissolve cellulose. Max Fremery and Johann Urban developed a method to produce carbon fibers for use in light bulbs in 1897. Production of cuprammonium rayon for textiles started in 1899 in the Vereinigte Glanzstoff Fabriken AG in Oberbruch. Improvement by the J. P. Bemberg AG in 1904 made the artificial silk a product comparable to real silk.
Viscose method 
Finally, in 1894, English chemist Charles Frederick Cross, and his collaborators Edward John Bevan, and Clayton Beadle patented their artificial silk, which they named "viscose", because the reaction product of carbon disulfide and cellulose in basic conditions gave a highly viscous solution of xanthate. The first commercial viscose rayon was produced by the UK company Courtaulds Fibers in 1905. Avtex Fibers Incorporated began selling their formulation in the United States in 1910. The name "rayon" was adopted in 1924, with "viscose" being used for the viscous organic liquid used to make both rayon and cellophane. In Europe, though, the fabric itself became known as "viscose," which has been ruled an acceptable alternative term for rayon by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
The method is able to use wood (cellulose and lignin) as a source of cellulose while the other methods need lignin-free cellulose as starting material. This makes it cheaper and therefore it was used on a larger scale than the other methods. Contamination of the waste water by carbon disulfide, lignin and the xanthates made this process detrimental to the environment. Rayon was only produced as a filament fiber until the 1930s when it was discovered that broken waste rayon could be used in staple fiber.
The physical properties of rayon were unchanged until the development of high-tenacity rayon in the 1940s. Further research and development led to the creation of high-wet-modulus rayon (HWM rayon) in the 1950s. Research in the UK was centred on the government-funded British Rayon Research Association.
Major fiber properties 
Rayon is a versatile fiber and has the same comfort properties as natural fibers. It can imitate the feel and texture of silk, wool, cotton and linen. The fibers are easily dyed in a wide range of colors. Rayon fabrics are soft, smooth, cool, comfortable, and highly absorbent, but they do not insulate body heat, making them ideal for use in hot and humid climates.
The durability and appearance retention of regular viscose rayon are low, especially when wet; also, rayon has the lowest elastic recovery of any fiber. However, HWM rayon is much stronger and exhibits higher durability and appearance retention. Recommended care for regular viscose rayon is dry-cleaning only. HWM rayon can be machine washed.
Gallery of textures 
A sample of rayon from a skirt, photographed with a macro lens.
Physical structure 
Regular rayon has lengthwise lines called striations and its cross-section is an indented circular shape. The cross-sections of HWM and cupra rayon are rounder. Filament rayon yarns vary from 80 to 980 filaments per yarn and vary in size from 40 to 5000 denier. Staple fibers range from 1.5 to 15 denier and are mechanically or chemically crimped. Rayon fibers are naturally very bright, but the addition of delustering pigments cuts down on this natural brightness.
Production method 
Regular rayon (or viscose) is the most widely produced form of rayon. This method of rayon production has been utilized since the early 1900s and it has the ability to produce either filament or staple fibers. The process is as follows:
- Cellulose: Production begins with processed cellulose
- Immersion: The cellulose is dissolved in caustic soda: (C6H10O5)n + nNaOH → (C6H9O4ONa)n + nH2O
- Pressing: The solution is then pressed between rollers to remove excess liquid
- White Crumb: The pressed sheets are crumbled or shredded to produce what is known as "white crumb"
- Aging: The "white crumb" is aged through exposure to oxygen
- Xanthation: The aged "white crumb" is mixed with carbon disulfide in a process known as Xanthation, the aged alkali cellulose crumbs are placed in vats and are allowed to react with carbon disulfide under controlled temperature (20 to 30 °C) to form cellulose xanthate: (C6H9O4ONa)n + nCS2 → (C6H9O4O-SC-SNa)n
- Yellow Crumb: Xanthation changes the chemical makeup of the cellulose mixture and the resulting product is now called "yellow crumb"
- Viscose: The "yellow crumb" is dissolved in a caustic solution to form viscose
- Ripening: The viscose is set to stand for a period of time, allowing it to ripen: (C6H9O4O-SC-SNa)n + nH2O → (C6H10O5)n + nCS2 + nNaOH
- Filtering: After ripening, the viscose is filtered to remove any undissolved particles
- Degassing: Any bubbles of air are pressed from the viscose in a degassing process
- Extruding: The viscose solution is extruded through a spinneret, which resembles a shower head with many small holes
- Acid Bath: As the viscose exits the spinneret, it lands in a bath of sulfuric acid, resulting in the formation of rayon filaments: (C6H9O4O-SC-SNa)n + ½nH2SO4 → (C6H10O5)n + nCS2 + ½nNa2SO4
- Drawing: The rayon filaments are stretched, known as drawing, to straighten out the fibers
- Washing: The fibers are then washed to remove any residual chemicals
- Cutting: If filament fibers are desired the process ends here. The filaments are cut down when producing staple fibers
High wet modulus rayon (HWM) is a modified version of viscose that has a greater strength when wet. It also has the ability to be mercerized like cotton. HWM rayons are also known as "polynosic"[clarification needed] or can be identified by the trade name Modal.
Cupramonium rayon has properties similar to viscose but during production, the cellulose is combined with copper and ammonia (Schweizer's reagent). Due to the environmental effects of this production method, cupramonium rayon is no longer produced in the United States.
Disposal and biodegradability 
The biodegradability of fibers in soil burial and sewage sludge was evaluated by Korean researchers who found that biodegradability decreased in the following order: rayon, cotton, acetate (meaning rayon decays more readily than cotton). The ability of individual rayon-based fabrics to repel water was negatively correlated with their speed of degradation (meaning the greater the water-repelling ability of the fibre, the slower it will decompose). Silverfish can eat rayon.
Alternative to cotton 
Rising cotton prices in 2010 led clothing makers to begin replacing cotton with rayon in their fabrics. Designers such as Isaac Mizrahi have incorporated rayon into their newest designs. As demand for rayon increases, companies such as Fortress Paper have been investing in pulp mills to increase production. Rayon now sells for as much as $2.70 per pound, which has led to an increase in the retail price of clothing made with rayon, despite rayon's price advantage over cotton.
In early 2010, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission warned several retailers that six major manufacturers were falsely labeling rayon products as "bamboo", in order to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. While rayon may be produced with bamboo as a raw material, and the two may be used for similar fabrics (though natural bamboo is not as smooth), rayon is so far removed from bamboo by chemical processing that the two are entirely separate.
Trade names are used within the rayon industry to determine the type of rayon used. Viscose Rayon was first produced in Coventry England in 1905 by Courtaulds.
Bemberg, for example, is a trade name for cupramonium rayon developed by J. P. Bemberg that is now only produced in Italy due to United States Environmental Protection Agency regulations in the US.
Modal and Tencel are widely used forms of rayon produced by Lenzing AG which is based in northern Austria. Tencel, generic name lyocell, is made by a slightly different solvent recovery process, and is considered a different fiber by the US FTC.
Galaxy, Danufil, and Viloft are rayon brands produced by Kelheim Fibres, a German manufacturer.
Grasim of India is the largest producer of rayon in the world (claiming 24% market share). It has plants in Nagda, Kharach and Harihar – all in India, as well as joint ventures in Canada, Laos and China.
Tencel and lyocell were first produced commercially by Courtaulds at Grimsby in England. The process which dissolves cellulose directly in amine oxide was developed by Courtaulds Research in Coventry.
See also 
- Kauffman, George B. (1993). "Rayon: the first semi-synthetic fiber product". Journal of Chemical Education 70 (11): 887. Bibcode:1993JChEd..70..887K. doi:10.1021/ed070p887.
- "Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (2010) Chapter 54 Note 1". usitc.gov.
- Rayon Fiber (Viscose). afma.org
- Editors, Time-Life (1991). Inventive Genius. New York: Time-Life Books. p. 52. ISBN 0-8094-7699-1.
- Over 100 years old and still going strong From Glanzstoff (artificial silk) factory to industry park. industriepark-oberbruch.de
- Verinigte Glanstoff Fabriken merged with the Nederlandse Kunstzijdefabrieken in 1929 to form the Algemene Kunstzijde Unie, AkzoNobel's predecessor
- J. P. Bemberg AG was one of the Verinigte Glanstoff Fabriken which merged into the Dutch based Algemene Kunstzijde Unie (AKU)--AkzoNobel today
- Kadolph, Sara J. and Langford, Anna L. (2001). Textiles (9 ed.). Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-025443-6.
- Karen L. LaBat and Carol J. Salusso (2003). Classifications & Analysis of Textiles: A Handbook. University of Minnesota.
- Joyce A. Smith. Rayon – The Multi-Faceted Fiber. Ohio State University Rayon Fact Sheet
- Park, Chung Hee; Kang, Yun Kyung; Im, Seung Soon (2004). "Biodegradability of cellulose fabrics". Journal of Applied Polymer Science 94: 248. doi:10.1002/app.20879.
- Wirz, Matt (January 7, 2011) "The Touch, The Feel – Of Rayon," Wall Street Journal, Money and Investment section, p. c1
- Lipka, Mitch. (2011-01-12) Bamboo-zled: FTC says retailers fibbed about bamboo product claims. Walletpop.com. Retrieved on 2012-08-22.
- http://www.colbond.us/history.htm Acordia was a spinoff by AkzoNobel in 2000 after it had acquired Courtaulds. It was through AkzoNobel's original parent company's, the Nederlandse Kunstzijidefabriek, joint venture with Rento Hofstede Crull 's De Vijf, named De Internationale Spinpot Exploitatie Mattschappij (ISEM) that the commercial production of rayon was made viable. Hofstede Crull had supplied the solution for the problem of manufacturing rayon with his Driving Device For A Centrifugal Spinning Machine in 1925 (1931 U.S. Patent 1,798,312). The ISEM was fully integrated with the Algemene Kunstzijde Unie, the Nederlandse Kunstzijdefabriek's successor, with the death of Hofstede Crull in 1938 (See AkzoNobel, American Enka Company, and also Rento Hofstede Crull
- "North American Rayon Corporation and American Bemberg Corporation" in the Tennessee Encyclopedia
- North American Rayon Corporation of Tennessee was an American subsidiary of J. P. Bemburg A.G. which was part of the Verinigte Glanstoff Fabriken that were absorbed into the Dutch AKU, AkzoNobel today
- Grasim. Grasim (2004-08-06). Retrieved on 2012-08-22.
Further reading 
- For a review of all rayon production methods and markets see "Regenerated Cellulose Fibres", (book – Edited by C R Woodings) Hardback 2001, ISBN 1-85573-459-1, Woodhead Publishing Ltd.
- For a description of the production method at a factory in Germany in World War II, see Agnès Humbert, (tr. Barbara Mellor) Résistance: Memoirs of Occupied France, London, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2008 ISBN 978-0-7475-9597-7 (American title: Resistance: A Frenchwoman's Journal of the War, Bloomsbury, USA, 2008) pp. 152–155
|Look up Bemberg in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Look up rayon in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- History of Viscose Rayon and Artificial Silk
- Cellulose Based Plastics: Celluloid and Rayon
- The Production of Rayon by Courtaulds in England: Historic photos (1948)
- The Development of Tencel, a Pollution-free Rayon process by Courtaulds in England