Paul Schlak

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Paul Schlak 2016-12-06T05:35:21+00:00

Paul Schlack

(1897 – 1987)

synthesised nylon 6

Paul Schlack was born on 22 December 1897 and completed his studies at the Technischen in Stuttgart in 1921. After working as a research chemist in Copenhagen for a year he returned to Stuttgart, taking with him a keen interest in amide chemistry. In 1926 he became head of the Berlin laboratories of Aceta, part of IG Farben, working on cellulose acetate textiles. The major objective was the ‘naturalising’ of acetate to behave like an animal fibre. For this, polyamides seemed to Schlack very promising and, although he did some work in this direction – albeit outside his official area of responsibility – it was inhibited by economic constraints until the 1930s. He then discovered that the viscous melt obtained by the acid hydrolysis of raw caprolactam could be spun into filaments of what is now known as nylon 6. He also made some rod 2 – 3 cm in diameter which could not be broken with a heavy hammer. The interest of his superiors, who were previously unaware of these sideline activities, was now assured.

Having established that there was no conflict with the patent rights of DuPont associated with the pioneering discovery in the USA of nylon 66 by Wallace Carothers in 1931, the new material was produced on a pilot scale and the first nylon 6 monofilaments were sold to the brush industry in 1939 under the tradename Perlon. Large-scale manufacture of filament yarn at Landsberg, east of Berlin, followed in 1943. After the war, Paul Schlack was in charge when Farbwerke Hoechst started to make nylon 6 fibre on a commercial scale at Bobingen in 1950. He then became director of the company’s textile research department.

In 1961 he was made honorary professor and head of the Institute of Fibre Chemistry at his alma mater, the Stuttgart Technischen Hochschule. He later retired to Echterdingen and died in 1987.