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The term artificial silk goes back to Joseph Wilson Swan , who in 1885 introduced the term "artificial silk" for the nitrate cellulose filaments he produced. The copper, viscose and acetate filament yarns spun on the basis of cellulose were later also referred to as rayon. Cellulose filament yarns were generally and officially summarized under the generic term artificial silk until the 1950s / 1960s, because it had already been found at the beginning of the 20th century that this term could not be replaced by the term glossy fabric. The name Glanzstoff was introduced in 1899 with the founding of the United Glanzstoff-Fabriken AG for the "artificial silk" made from copper oxide ammonia cellulose ( Cupro ) in their Oberbruch plant , also with the intention of making artificial silk not only appear as a surrogate for natural silk . Rather, a new textile product should be created for new and special uses.

In connection with a legal trademark protection dispute for “ Gütermanns sewing silk” in the Federal Republic of Germany, word combinations with “silk” such as B. Viscose silk are no longer used, which is why the generic terms synthetic and chemical silk for these products are no longer applicable.

History of the development of artificial silk production

First ideas and developments for the production of artificial filaments

The idea of ​​artificial textile fibers was first known from Robert Hooke in his book Micrographie, or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies, made by Magnifying Glasses, with Observations and Inquieries thereupon, published in 1665 . He suggested drawing fine threads from a glue-like mass of wood fiber, similar to the product of the silkworm. But this suggestion did not result in any practical experiments. In 1734 René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur thought of pulling out enough fine threads from rubber lacquer or the like; However, the laboratory tests he carried out did not reveal any usable fibers. The basic goal of both scientists to find a cheap substitute for silk could not be achieved due to the lack of a suitable spinneret and spinning solution.

In 1842 the silk weaver Louis Schwabe was able to present a kind of spinneret at a conference of the British Association with which he could produce glass fibers from a glass melt through a fine opening . In experiments with cotton and different types of wood, the French chemist Anselme Payen discovered cellulose as a building block of wood in 1839 . As early as 1832, Henri Braccanot was producing soluble cellulose with the help of nitric acid, and in 1846 Christian Friedrich Schönbein manufactured gun cotton by treating cotton with a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids . George Audemars then obtained cellulose nitrate from carefully cleaned and bleached bast fibers of the mulberry tree with the help of nitric acid , which he dissolved in an alcohol - ether mixture with the addition of rubber . The collodion mass thus formed could be pulled out into threads by means of a steel point; However, it was not used in practice because there was no suitable equipment.

From the 1880s onwards, a homogeneous thread material based on cellulose could be produced. Carbon filaments could be made from this, which enabled the mass production of incandescent lamps . In the process, a collodion solution was pressed into a solidification liquid through fine openings for the first time. The resulting filament was made to coagulate while being pulled out at the same time . Joseph Wilson Swan called his filaments produced in a similar way for the first time "artificial silk".

Filament yarns based on cellulose nitrate

  • In 1664, Robert Hooke examined silk material microscopically for the first time in order to decipher the structure.
  • In 1839 Anselme Payen developed the basis for the production of cellulosic filament yarns by finding a process with which cellulose could be obtained from wood.
  • In 1845 Christian Friedrich Schönbein succeeded in dissolving cellulose nitrate in alcohol and ether.
  • 1855: For the first time, George Philippe Audemars described the manufacture of nitrate cellulose filament yarns by dissolving cellulose nitrate in alcohol and ether. The process has gained no practical importance.
  • 1883: Joseph Wilson Swan first made fibers from cellulose nitrate.
  • 1890: The Société Anonyme pour le fabrication de la soie de Chardonnet began the factory production of cellulosic filament yarns.

Filament yarn based on cuprammonium cellulose

Filament yarns based on cellulose acetate

  • 1865: First extraction of cellulose acetate from cotton fibers and acetic anhydride by the French chemist Paul Schützenberger .
  • 1907: First acetate silk production in the artificial silk factory Jülich.
  • 1920: Invention of a dyeing process for acetate silk, which had not been dyed until then, by the Swiss René Clavel.
  • 1921: Start of mass production of acetate silk under the trade name "Celanese" by the Dreyfus brothers and their British Celanese, Ltd., followed by the opening of further production sites in the USA and the rest of Europe.

Filament yarns based on viscose (cellulose xanthate)

Viscose fabric.

In 1891 Charles Frederick Cross , Edward John Bevan and Clayton Beadle discovered a process for the production of viscose , which is obtained from cellulose xanthate. Viscose is more economical to manufacture than filament yarns based on nitrate and cuprammonium, since cheap wood pulp is used as the base material, while the more expensive cotton linter is required for nitrate and cuprammonium filament yarns .


Cellulosic filament yarns are very similar to real silk in optics and feel; Cellulosic filament yarns also consist of very fine threads and have a characteristic sheen. However, natural silk consists of protein fibers, while cellulose has a polysaccharidic structure.


  • Robert Bauer: The Century of Man-Made Fibers. Goldmann, Munich 1958, DNB 450262812 .
  • GJ Beer: The Beginning of Rayon. Paignton, 1962
  • LG Fauquet: Histoire de la Rayonne et des Textiles Synthétiques. Armand Colin, Paris 1960.
  • Kurt Götze man-made fibers based on the viscose process. Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg / New York 1967, ISBN 3-642-85886-4 .
  • Hans J. Koslowski: Chemical fiber lexicon. Terms, numbers, trade names. 12th edition. Deutscher Fachverlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-87150-876-9 .
  • RB Seymour, RS Porter: Man-made Fibers: Their Origin and Development. London / New York 1993, ISBN 1-85166-888-8 .
  • Hans-Wilhelm Marquart:  Hermann Pauly. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 20, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-428-00201-6 , p. 137 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Klaus Müller, Georg-Heinrich Treitschke: "Artificial silk from Pirna - A company in Germany's times". Verlag Gunter Oettel, ISBN 978-3-944560-12-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: artificial silk  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul-August Koch, Günther Satlow: Large Textile Lexicon: Specialized lexicon for the entire textile industry. Volume A - K. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1965, p. 749.
  2. Hermann Klare: History of chemical fiber research. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1985, p. 25.
  3. ^ Paul-August Koch, Günther Satlow: Large Textile Lexicon: Specialized lexicon for the entire textile industry. Volume A - K. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1965, p. 524.
  4. 25 years of Glanzstoff. United Glossstoff-Fabriken A.-G. Elberfeld 1899-1924. Eckstein Biographischer Verlag, Berlin 1924, p. 48.
  5. Wolfgang Bobeth (Ed.): Textile fibers. Texture and properties . Springer-Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg / New York 1993, ISBN 3-540-55697-4 , p. VIII.
  6. a b c d Valentin Hottenroth: The artificial silk . 2nd, expanded edition. Verlag S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1930, p. 7-9 .
  7. a b Calvin Woodings (ed.): Regenerated cellulose fibers . Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge 2001, ISBN 1-85573-459-1 , pp. 1 .
  8. Menachem Lewin (Ed.): Handbook of Fiber Chemistry. 3. Edition. Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton 2007, ISBN 978-0-8247-2565-5 , p. 713.
  9. Hermann Klare: History of chemical fiber research. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1985, p. 20.
  10. Joseph Wilson Swan: Innovations in the manufacture of coals for electric light bulbs. German Patent No. 30291, May 4, 1884.
  11. a b c German Hosiery Museum: Artificial silk ( Memento of the original from August 29, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.deutsches-strumpfmuseum.de
  12. Mirjam Brockmann: Plastics to get to know: artificial silk. 2000, accessed October 22, 2017 .