Mystery Nylon Factory


Two solutions are poured together in a beaker. A paper clip is inserted down into the solutions. As the paper clip is withdrawn, almost by magic a very long strand of nylon is pulled from the beaker. A super demonstration to discuss polymer concepts.


  • Polymerization
  • Condensation polymer


Hexamethylenediamine/Sodium hydroxide solution, 7 mL*
Adipoyl chloride/hexane solution, 7 mL*
Beaker, 50-mL
Paper clip
*Materials included in kit.

Safety Precautions

Hexamethylenediamine/sodium hydroxide solution is toxic by ingestion and is corrosive. Adipoyl chloride/hexane solution is a flammable liquid and is toxic by ingestion and inhalation. Chemical splash goggles, chemical-resistant gloves and a chemical resistant apron should be worn. Perform this demonstration under a fume hood or in a well-ventilated room. Do not handle the nylon without wearing gloves unless it has been thoroughly washed. Please consult current Safety Data Sheets before beginning this activity.


The nylon produced may be washed and dried. Dispose of it in the solid waste disposal according to Flinn Suggested Disposal Method #26. Dispose of the liquid according to Flinn Suggested Disposal Method #18b.


  1. Add 7 mL of the hexamethylenediamine/sodium hydroxide solution to a small beaker.
  2. Slowly add 7 mL of the adipoyl chloride/hexane solution down the side of the beaker. Do not stir or mix the solutions.
  3. Note the formation of a white film at the interface of the two solutions.
  4. Use a bent paper clip (opened to form a hook) to pull the film from the beaker. Pull slowly until there is no more nylon left. The nylon should be easily pulled from the beaker in the form of strands.
  5. Wash the nylon strands by rinsing with water several times.
  6. Lay the nylon strands on a paper towel to allow them to dry.

Student Worksheet PDF


Teacher Tips

  • Let your students observe that the two solutions do not mix. They are immiscible.
  • Observe the production of a film at the interface of the two solutions and the removal of the film as a long string of nylon.
  • Make sure that the nylon is washed several times before it is handled.
  • The hexamethylenediamine solution is slightly pink to make it more visible during the demonstration. If the pink has faded, add 1–2 drops of red food coloring.
  • Sebacoyl chloride can be used in place of adipoyl chloride to produce nylon 6/10.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
HS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

Crosscutting Concepts

Structure and function

Performance Expectations

MS-PS1-3. Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.

Answers to Questions

  1. Describe what happened in this demonstration. Include all observations you made about the substance produced.

    A solution was poured on top of another solution in a beaker. The two solutions did not mix, but a white film began to form at the interface. When a paper clip was used to pull the film out, it came in thin, long strands. When the material dried, it was smooth, elastic and relatively strong.

  2. The polymer chains that made up nylon are randomly oriented when it is first produced. When the nylon is pulled like a thread, the chains line up into thin fibers, which increases the hydrogen bonding among the chains. What property do you think this bonding contributes to the nylon?

    The large amount of hydrogen bonding among the chains strengthens the nylon fibers, so it contributes to the very strong, stable nature of nylon.

  3. Why does the nylon form only at the interface of the two solutions?

    Nylon only forms at the interface because the two solutions are immiscible. They do not mix, and neither is soluble in the other, so the only place the reaction can take place is right where the two solutions meet.

  4. What are some commercial uses of nylon?

    Commercial uses of nylon include hosiery, parachutes and bristles for toothbrushes. It can be molded into many different shapes, or it can be extricated as fiber and used in that manner.


Nylon is a generic name for a family of polyamide polymers. W. H. Carothers at Dupont discovered nylon in 1935. It was quickly commercialized and played an important role in World War II in clothing and parachutes. Nylon is a condensation polymer since a molecule of water or HCl is formed for each extension of the polymer chain. A common nylon product is Nylon 6/6 which is produced from the reaction of two 6-carbon compounds, hexamethylenediamine and adipoyl chloride or adipic acid.


Nylon is a thermoplastic and can be molded into shapes or extruded into a fiber. Nylon fibers are stronger and more elastic than silk and are relatively insensitive to moisture and mildew. Nylon is used in many commercial products such as hosiery, athletic apparel, bristles for toothbrushes, rugs and carpets, sails, parachutes and some astroturfs.


Special thanks to Jim and Julie Ealy, The Peddie School, Hightstown, NJ, who provided us with the instructions for this activity.

Next Generation Science Standards and NGSS are registered trademarks of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.