Letter | Published:

Reactivity of the Sulphur Linkage in Wool

Naturevolume 155pages4546 (1945) | Download Citation



WHEN a wool fibre is rubbed lengthways between finger and thumb, it migrates in the direction of the root end because the surface consists of a series of overlapping scales. Similarly, when a fabric containing wool fibres is rubbed in presence of aqueous media, the fibres migrate and cause the material to shrink. Such shrinkage is usually prevented by treating the fabric with compounds which are capable of forming a gelatinous degradation product of keratin on or under the scales of the fibres. A survey of the properties of these compounds suggested1 that any reagent which is capable of causing disulphide-bond breakdown should make wool fabrics unshrinkable if it is applied under conditions such as to restrict its action to the surface of the fibres. Confirmation of this deduction has since been provided by the discovery of methods for conferring an unshrinkable finish on wool by means of sodium hydroxide2, sodium sulphide3, and alkaline solutions of mercaptans4.

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  1. 1

    Speakman, Nilssen and Elliott, Nature, 142, 1035 (1938).

  2. 2

    Freney and Lipson, Aust. Coun. Sci. and Indust. Research, Pamphlet No. 94 (1940). Tootal Broadhurst Lee Company, Limited, Hall and Wood, Brit. Pat. 538,396.

  3. 3

    Parker, Farrington, Stubbs and Speakman, Brit. Pat. 539, 057.

  4. 4

    Arthur and Goebel, U.S. Pat. 2,238,672.

  5. 5

    Speakman and Whewell, J. Soc. Dyers and Colourists, 52, 380 (1936). Horn, Jones and Ringel, J. Biol. Chem., 138, 141 (1941).

  6. 6

    Phillips, Nature, 138, 121 (1936). Speakman, Nature, 138, 327 (1936).

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  1. Textile Chemistry Laboratory, University, Leeds

    • W. J. P. NEISH
    •  & J. B. SPEAKMAN


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