Viscose fibre was discovered in 1891 by English scientists, Cross and Bevan. It was heralded as the new fibre to replace silk and is sometimes called artificial silk. This fibre has been produced widely all over the world, usually in countries which have a plentiful supply of trees, as it is this which provides the raw material for the fibre. The raw material is actually wood pulp, but also short cotton fibre, unusable for spinning, is also a raw material. The first commercial production in America was opened in 1910 by the American Viscose Company and the fibre became known as viscose rayon, with other producers following suit.
The first use for the fibre was in car tyres as reinforcing. Massive volumes for the fibre were never achieved due to the invention of other cheaper fibres, such as Polyester and Nylon. Wood is pulped into sheets of cellulose and steeped in an alkali solution. After this process the sheets are shredded into cellulose crumbs and treated with carbon disulphide, which changes the chemical structure of the cellulose. This is then dissolved in a solution of sodium hydroxide, to make a thick solution (hence the name viscose). This solution is then machine forced through spinnerets, to produce viscose fibre in a wet spun process. The resulting fibre is then dried, crimped and cut to the required length.
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