Intro: Synthesizing Conductive Nylon
Nylon is a popular fiber used to make everything from parachuting material to tights. Maybe you've hear Nylon referenced as a popular thermoplastic or thread. Regardless of how you use it, Nylon is a versatile material that can be made in the lab.
In this experiment, I added some bells and whistles to Nylon by synthesizing fibers with graphite to make them conductive. They're a bit crumbly and highly resistive, but will register on a continuity test at about .2kohms resistance per centimeter.
Step 1: Lab Setup
You'll want to do this experiment with gloves and in a fume hood if you can. These chemicals can seriously harm you and it's important to take the right precautions.
Here's everything you'll need:
- 1 innovating Science Nylon Rope Trick Kit [ 1-6 Hexanediamine and Sebacoyl Chloride]
- 1 pack of wooden sticks (for winding nylon)
- 1 small mouthed glass jar
- 1 beaker with markings at 5ml increments
- 10 miligrams of powdered graphite
- 1 liquid waste jar
- 1 solid waste baggie
- Small digital scale
- Metal tweezers
- Fume Hood (if you can access one)
- Safety glasses, nitrile gloves, glass stirring rod and a fashionable jumpsuit to protect your skin.
This experiment should take around 60 min to set up and complete.
If you're curious, here are the solutions you'll get in the Nylon rope trick kit with potential hazards:
1-6 Hexanediamine Solution - moderate toxicity and can cause burns and irritation
6% 1-6 Hexanediamine
2% sodium hydroxide
Sebacoyl Chloride/ Hexane solution – Corrosive. Creates hydrogen chloride (HCl) gas when hydrolyzed with water. Sebacoyl Chloride is a lachrymator and will be handled only inside of the fume hood.
4% Sebacoyl Chloride
Here are recommended engineering controls for a safe experiment:
Chemical fume hoods are designed to eliminate or reduce exposure to vapors, dusts, and mists. Air is drawn into the enclosure through the hood face and is exhausted outside the laboratory.
After use, all materials will be kept in an appropriate, sealable container and stored in the correct chemical cabinet.
ALL CONTAINERS MUST BE LABELED WITH CONTENTS AT ALL TIMES. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Great! Now that we have properly looked into the chemicals and supply list, let's set up the experiment!
Don your safety gear of glasses, gloves and long sleeves/ jumpsuit. You should prep a waste baggie to keep all disposable waste in as you can't simply throw waste into the garbage. For liquid waste, set aside a small jar to keep liquids. Let's prep our materials!
- Measure out 5ml of Hexanediamine into a beaker.
- Pour this into the synthesis, small mouthed jar.
- Measure out 5ml of sebacoyl chloride in a beaker.
Get ready to add graphite to your sebacoyl chloride.
Step 2: Adding Graphite to Sebacoyl Chloride
- Weigh out 10 milligrams of graphite and add to the sebacoyl chloride.
- Mix. The solution will settle.
- Get ready to add the two solutions together
Step 3: Synthesis
Slowly pour the sebacoyl chloride solution (with graphite) down the side of the small jar with hexanediamine. You should see a mucous like interface. Huzzah! We have interfacial polymerization!
Use tweezers to grab at the interface and slowly pull up. Use your other hand to grab a wooden stick and place the material onto the stick.
Step 4: Extruding Your Nylon
You can now start twisting up a long thread of Nylon! The graphite is attracted to the interface, so the first pieces you extrude will be the most conductive! Keep winding until all of the material is used up.
Let your Nylon dry and then remove with nitrile gloves, as the graphite makes the nylon stain.
Clean up your experiment by putting solid waste in a bag and liquid waste in a disposable bottle. These need to go to hazardous waste for proper disposal.
Step 5: Weaving Conductive Nylon
Test your nylon for conductivity and potentially, wind it into a fiber and weave! I didn't quite get to turning the fiber into a textile, but I would love to see examples of uses for this material. As a thermoplastic, you may be able to melt it and re-extrude!
Try testing the resistance of your nylon as well. I'm curious to hear about your experiment outcomes!