Northwestern University is reporting an improved process for cracking Nylon 6 into raw materials that can be recycled. Nylon’s are polyamides that usually require strong reagents to break down. If it scales it could make recycling Nylon 6 practical.
Nylon 6 is the one most often used in tire cords and carpeting. Another one Nylon 66, also a polyamide, is the one we encounter most often. An obvious question is whether the new process will also work on Nylon 66.
Nylon is the first of the synthetic fibers. It was discovered at Dupont under the leadership of Wallace Carothers (who later committed suicide). It is based on the discovery that proteins are polyamides. Exploration of other possible raw materials gave new discoveries.
Nylon 6 is made from caprolactam, usually a petrochemical. Nylon 66 is made from hexamethylene diamine and adipic acid, usually made from natural gas.