This Is Plastics: Synthetic Fibers Go Beyond Textiles to Fortify Everyday Essentials


Synthetic Fibers Go Beyond Textiles to Fortify Everyday Essentials

Synthetic fibers, created from plastic polymers, enhance the function and performance of the everyday objects we depend on for fitness, construction, and medicine.


Synthetic fibers go beyond their use in textiles, providing essential functionality across our day to day lives in sporting goods, construction and even medicine. At their core, synthetic fibers are man-made and not naturally occurring, like cotton for example. They are made from synthesized chemicals, known as polymers, that are derived from petrochemicals like oil. Through innovation and design these fibers have found multiple uses in the footwear athletes, to the fortified steel columns in our cities’ skyscrapers and the soft tissue replica surgeons depend on. 

Plastic Fibers Deliver Functionality for Sporting Equipment 

Plastic fibers are critical to the functionality and use of sporting wear and equipment. Performance footwear like hiking boots, track spikes and soccer cleats contain polymers and polymer matrix composites that allow the shoe to perform as it was intended. Materials like nylon, polyester, polypropylene, rayon and spandex make up key components of shoes such as the foam that cushions hard impacts on the heel, the soft ventilated material on the tongue and collar that makes skin contact and keeps it dry and the styrene-butadiene rubber that gives athletes traction and stability on a court or an icy hiking trail. Synthetic fibers also provide a hygienic component, having been engineered to be biologically resistant or contain reactive composites capable of fighting off odor, bacteria and fungi by reducing moisture effectively. 

Sporting equipment depends on plastic design fibers for its structural and performative the same way sporting wear does. Gear such as skis, golf clubs, surfboards, bicycle frames, parachutes, sail cloth and a wide range of padding all depend on the strength and flexibility of plastic polymers for safety and performance. Polymers have a great ability to absorb shock while maintaining structural integrity, making them ideal for use in sporting equipment. Surfboards are usually made from a variety of synthetic polymers like epoxy, polyurethane and carbon fibers, each presenting a range of advantages for surfers at various levels. Carbon fiber is considered one of the most elite options because of its extraordinarily high level of strength of durability. Athletes favor carbon fiber surfboards because they are lightweight, corrosion resistant enough to withstand salt water and all other outdoor elements have anisotropic qualities making it seismic resistance and allowing surfers to balance effectively. 

The use and innovation of plastic fibers have allowed athletes the ability to focus on their performance knowing their equipment has been thoughtfully designed to perform at peak levels while maintaining integrity and function. Most importantly, these advancements have come at an affordable and accessible price for athletes of all ages and stages. 

Synthetic Fiber Enhanced Concrete Is Stronger and Sustainable

Synthetic fibers also have many uses outside of sports and other leisure activities. Polypropylene, a type of polymer is used heavily in construction because of its ability to provide sound reinforcement. Specifically, concrete reinforced polypropylene contains a mixture of cement, mortar and uniformly dispersed fibers. These fibers give concrete 10 to 40 times more structural integrity than regular concrete, making it the preferred material for construction. Other benefits fiber enhanced concrete provides include the ability to control freeze thaw and cracking and the amount of permeability of elements like water. This gives fiber enhanced concrete improved impact strength, the ability to limit crack growth and an increase in the material’s strain capacity. This is critical in industrial applications because fiber reinforced concrete can minimize the need for steel reinforcement by increasing the capacity of reinforced concrete beams, making the fiber reinforced concrete a doubly efficient material that can lead to a reduction in cost, resources and other materials. 

Synthetic Polymers are Celebrated for their Dispensation in the Medical Field

Polymers are also critically important in a medical setting and are celebrated for their dispensation to design and application. Adjustments like molecular weight, degree of crystallization, surface function and toxicity can all be adjusted to meet the needs of the application. Research proves that plastic has a keen ability to replicate components of the human body, making it perfect for replacement parts and surgical aid. Polymers are used as nerve guidance in the brain, dental composites and even tissue extensions. 

In orthopedics, polymers are used to stabilize materials because of their strength and flexibility, vascular stents use polymers for their light weight, durability and malleability. In the case of these two, once the materials have served their purpose in the body, they degrade and disappear in what’s called responsive degradation. Responsive degradation is also used in pills, or what drug labels refer to as “extended release”, allowing for patient comfort and ease when medicating. 

Silicone elastomer, or tissue expander, is another essential use of polymers in medicine. Silicone elastomer mimics soft tissue. Tissue expanders are critical for patients undergoing reconstructive surgeries because the elastomer creates the ideal contour augmentation and integration of any implants used or fixated on the body. One such example is reconstruction surgery following a person’s battle with breast cancer. 

Plastics have brought ease to humans’ life but we have yet to fully realize all their important uses considering the innovations taking place in the field even today. Toughness, biocompatibility, shear proof, flexibility, resistance and hygiene have all been key descriptors of synthetic fibers. Plastics polymers like these fibers offer humans a vast array of benefits that provide not only an enjoyment of life, but the ability to live it fully, unhindered by medical incapacities or ineffective tools. Thanks to plastic polymers, the plastic foam in football padding can take the brute force of an opponent and surgeons can reconstruct for a patient what cancer took. 

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