The History of Polyester

Woven Synthetic Fabric
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Polyester is a synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. Developed in a 20th-century laboratory, polyester fibers are formed from a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol. In this reaction, two or more molecules combine to make a large molecule whose structure repeats throughout its length. Polyester fibers can form very long molecules that are very stable and strong.

Whinfield and Dickson Patent the Basis of Polyester

British chemists John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson, employees of the Calico Printer's Association of Manchester, patented "polyethylene terephthalate" (also called PET or PETE) in 1941, after advancing the early research of Wallace Carothers.

Whinfield and Dickson saw that Carothers's research had not investigated the polyester formed from ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. Polyethylene terephthalate is the basis of synthetic fibers such as polyester, dacron, and terylene. Whinfield and Dickson along with inventors W.K. Birtwhistle and C.G. Ritchie also created the first polyester fiber called Terylene in 1941 (first manufactured by Imperial Chemical Industries or ICI). The second polyester fiber was Dupont's Dacron.


According to Dupont, "In the late 1920s, DuPont was in direct competition with Britain’s recently formed Imperial Chemical Industries. DuPont and ICI agreed in October 1929 to share information about patents and research developments. In 1952, the companies’ alliance was dissolved... The polymer that became polyester has roots in the 1929 writings of Wallace Carothers. However, DuPont chose to concentrate on the more promising nylon research. When DuPont resumed its polyester research, ICI had patented Terylene polyester, to which DuPont purchased the U.S. rights in 1945 for further development. In 1950, a pilot plant at the Seaford, Delaware, facility produced Dacron [polyester] fiber with modified nylon technology."

Dupont's polyester research lead to a whole range of trademarked products, one example is Mylar (1952), an extraordinarily strong polyester (PET) film that grew out of the development of Dacron in the early 1950s.

Polyesters are made from chemical substances found mainly in petroleum and are manufactured in fibers, films, and plastics.

DuPont Teijin Films

According to Dupont Teijin Films, "Plain polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polyester is most commonly associated with a material from which cloth and high-performance clothing are produced (e.g., DuPont Dacron® polyester fiber). Increasingly over the last 10 years, PET has gained acceptance as a material of choice for beverage bottles. PETG, also known as glycolysis polyester, is used in the production of cards. Polyester film (PETF) is a semi-crystalline film used in many applications such as videotape, high-quality packaging, professional photographic printing, X-ray film, floppy disks, etc. " 

DuPont Teijin Films (founded January 1, 2000) is a leading supplier of PET and PEN polyester films whose brand names include: Mylar ®, Melinex ®, and Teijin ® Tetoron ® PET polyester film, Teonex ® PEN polyester film, and Cronar ® polyester photographic base film.

Naming an invention actually involves developing at least two names. One name is the generic name. The other name is the brand name or trademark. For example, Mylar ® and Teijin ® are brand names; polyester film or polyethylene terephthalate are the generic or product names.

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Bellis, Mary. "The History of Polyester." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, February 16). The History of Polyester. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The History of Polyester." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).