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Before Papyrus: Beyond Rayon

Nature volume 134, pages 283284 (25 August 1934) | Download Citation



AN interesting and brightly written paper by Dr. G. J. Esselen, the president of Inc. Chemical and Research Development of Boston, is published in the Journal of the Franklin Institute of March. It is entitled “Before Papyrus … Beyond Rayon”. Rayon a few years ago was universally known as artificial silk. The basic chemical substance to which the writer refers is cellulose. It forms the structural framework of all vegetable life and is the raw material of great industries. The reason why the derivatives of cellulose were so slow in developing is that it is only a few years ago since its empirical composition was discovered. Transparent sheets of cellulose plastic are used in the manufacture of the laminated ‘glas's used in automobiles. A recent discovery has so lowered the cost of the manufacture of cellulose acetate plastic that at the present time more than 70 per cent of all the laminated ‘glas's manufactured in the United States is made from it. They also make bullet-proof ‘glas's composed of five laminations, the centre one being a piece of plate glass about £ in thickness. It is being used for the windows of armoured cars and cashier's cages in banks. In 1910, no rayon was being made in the United States. In 1931, 144 million pounds were produced. Methods of manufacturing rayon are continually improving, greatly increasing its strength and its resistance to water. A new use of cellulose is the manufacture of shoes. With this material all sewing and nailing of the soles to the uppers are eliminated. The cement used to stick them together is a cellulose nitrate cement. It is now only necessary to hold them together for fifty seconds. A single operator in 8 hours 15 minutes applied soles to 1,580 pairs of shoes. The value of cellulose as a raw material is continually increasing as our knowledge increases.

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