Rayon is a type of synthetic fiber created by humans in a laboratory. Its production is made from cellulose, mostly extracted from wood-pulp.
Because wood is also an organic resource, rayon is also sometimes referred to as a semi-synthetic fiber. In any case, this is a very versatile fiber, capable of emulating the characteristics of many types of materials, such as cotton or wool.
However, its creation is directly associated with silk.
During the second half of the 19th century, the French silk industry was on the brink of a crisis. Silkworms were being affected by a mysterious disease and several scientists were summoned to help solve the problem.
Louis Pasteur was one of the scientists involved in these efforts. The methods he developed for raising and maintaining healthy silkworm eggs still hold today. One of Pasteur's colleagues was the Count Hilaire de Chardonnet.
During his studies and investigations, the Count of Chardonnet gained a special interest in the development of a fiber capable of replacing silk. In 1885, the first type of fiber created from cellulose was patented. Rayon had just been born.
More than a century later, the Count of Chardonnet is considered the father of the rayon industry.
The process he developed was simple but slow and laborious. However, no one denied the potential of this fiber. As such, many continued to look for ways to improve upon his methods.
Three British scientists came up with the type of rayon most used today: viscose rayon, or simply Viscose.
Rayon is a synthetic fiber made from cellulose: an organic compound. The way it is produced allows for this fiber to simulate the same characteristics as other natural fibers, such as the comfort of cotton or wool.
Knitted circular fabrics made from rayon are very comfortable, fresh, and delicate. In addition, these are fibers that have great absorption capacity and can be mixed without major problems with the most varied types of other natural fibers.
To make this possible, there are several types of rayon, whose compositions and production methods vary from one another.
Above all, rayon is a synthetic fiber. However, since it is made from an organic substance such as cellulose, some consider it to be a semi-synthetic fiber.
The most common and known type of rayon is Viscose. In this case, its characteristics are similar to those of cotton. In other words, it is an airy fiber used for the creation of more casual or sporty circular knitted fabrics.
In addition to the Viscose type, there are two other types widely recognized: Modal and Tencel, also known as Lyocell. Modal is produced from a specific type of wood, gathered from the Beech tree. Lyocell is mostly used in jeans and shirts.
Cupro is also a rayon fiber that deserves to be mentioned. Each of these different types derives from the processes used for their creation.
The composition of rayon replicates the molecular structure of cellulose.
Its production requires the dissolution of cellulose. Then, the resulting solution is converted back into fibrous cellulose using three different regeneration methods. Each of the methods involves the regeneration of cellulose and originates different types of rayon.
The method that gives rise to Lyocell regenerates the cellulose into amine oxide, for example. The Cupro method regenerates it with ammoniacal solutions of copper salts.
The Viscose method is the most common.
After dissolving the cellulose, the liquid compound is forced through a piece of special equipment called a spinneret. A spinneret is an equipment used to apply an extrusion process that reforms the cellulose fibers and transforms them into fibers, ready for use.
In recent years, rayon fiber production has been mostly concentrated in developing countries. Particularly in Indonesia, one of the biggest producers in the world.
Its annual production can reach around six million tons, with more than 60% of all production being made in China, the world's largest producing country. Rayon allows for the creation of circular knitted fabrics whose touch on the skin is reminiscent of silk, ideal for the hottest and humid weather.
This is a synthetic fiber that blends well with other types of fiber and is available at ITJV only through catalogue request and sample validation.
This text was written and published in 2021