New route to nylon

nylon production generates large quantities of corrosive by-products. Now, a team of two British scientists has developed an environment friendly method to make caprolactam, which is the precursor of nylon.

An important textile and industrial fibre, nylon is a polymer (chain) of caprolactam and is used to make a variety of products including automative parts, sporting goods and packaging materials. Its current global demand is estimated at 4 million tonnes.

Conventionally, caprolactam is synthesised through a complex process from an organic compound called cyclohexanone, which is converted into its corresponding oxime, followed by a molecular rearrangement. The method has one major drawback: it produces immense quantities of unwanted ammonium sulphate