Spandex, Lycra or elastane is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity. It is stronger and more durable than natural rubber.[1] It is a polyester-polyurethane copolymer that was invented in 1958 by chemistJoseph Shivers at DuPont's Benger Laboratory in Waynesboro, Virginia.[2] When introduced in 1962, it revolutionized many areas of the clothing industry.

The name "spandex" is an anagram of the word "expands".[3] It is the preferred name in North America; in continental Europe it is referred to by variants of "elastane", i.e. elasthanne (France), elastan (Germany),elastano (Spain), elastam (Italy) and Elasthaan (Netherlands), and is known in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Israel primarily as Lycra. Brand names for spandex include Lycra (made by Koch subsidiary Invista, previously a part of DuPont), Elaspan (also Invista), Acepora (Taekwang), Creora(Hyosung), INVIYA (Indorama Corporation), ROICA and Dorlastan (Asahi Kasei), Linel (Fillattice), and ESPA(Toyobo).

Spandex fibers are produced in four different ways: melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution dry spinning, and solution wet spinning. All of these methods include the initial step of reacting monomers to produce a prepolymer. Once the prepolymer is formed, it is reacted further in various ways and drawn out to make the fibers. The solution dry spinning method is used to produce over 94.5% of the world's spandex fibers.[4]

Solution dry spinning[edit]

Step 1: The first step is to produce the prepolymer. This is done by mixing a macroglycol with a diisocyanate monomer. The two compounds are mixed in a reaction vessel to produce a prepolymer. A typical ratio of glycol to diisocyanate is 1:2.[4]

Step 2: The prepolymer is further reacted with an equal amount of diamine. This reaction is known as chain extension reaction. The resulting solution is diluted with a solvent (DMAc) to produce the spinning solution. The solvent helps make the solution thinner and more easily handled, and then it can be pumped into the fibre production cell.

Step 3: The spinning solution is pumped into a cylindrical spinning cell where it is cured and converted into fibres. In this cell, the polymer solution is forced through a metal plate called a spinneret. This causes the solution to be aligned in strands of liquid polymer. As the strands pass through the cell, they are heated in the presence of a nitrogen and solvent gas. This process causes the liquid polymer to react chemically and form solid strands.[4]

Cyclist wearing a pair of spandex shorts and a cycling jerseyWoman wearing spandex leggingsWrestlers wearing spandexA contortionist wearing spandex

Step 4: As the fibres exit the cell, an amount of solid strands are bundled together to produce the desired thickness. Each fibre of spandex is made up of many smaller individual fibres that adhere to one another due to the natural stickiness of their surface.[4]

Step 5: The resulting fibres are then treated with a finishing agent which can be magnesium stearate or another polymer. This treatment prevents the fibres' sticking together and aids in textile manufacture. The fibres are then transferred through a series

Because of its elasticity and strength (stretching up to five times its length), spandex has been incorporated into a wide range of garments, especially in skin-tight garments. A benefit of spandex is its significant strength and elasticity and its ability to return to the original shape after stretching and faster drying than ordinary fabrics.

The types of garments which incorporate spandex include:

For clothing, spandex is usually mixed with cotton or polyester, and accounts for a small percentage of the final fabric, which therefore retains most of the look and feel of the other fibers. In North America it is rare in men's clothing, but prevalent in women's. An estimated 80% of clothing sold in the United States contained spandex in 2010.[5]

this is what spandex spacesuits could look like

spandex spacesuits for dogs

spandex spacesuits now

With manned space exploration in the doldrums, maybe what NASA needs is a new outfit for its astronauts. Enter Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics at MIT, who is developing the Bio-Suit. It's a formfitting space suit made of elastic polymers that improve mobility. Because it applies pressure directly to the skin instead of pressurizing the air inside the suit, the way today's bulky suits do, it's also much lighter.

In an earlier post we covered NASA’s plan to slim down their wardrobe in NASA Goes "Bling"-Astronauts Get Sleek New Space Suits.

Now it seems those plans are going into action. The new suit is even sleeker than previously thought possible—which is a very good thing. After all, how can our astronauts really do extreme exploring while wrapped up in cumbersome “puff”ware? The answer is that they can’t, and that’s why MIT is designing a sleek new suit that will allow our space explorers to really hop, skip and jump anywhere in the solar system. So how does the new suit offer true mobility and protection from self-imposion?

Suits in the past 40 years of space exploration have been big and bulky in order to accommodate gas-pressurized systems, which gave astronauts a bubble of protection. In fact, rather than getting lighter, spacesuits have gotten progressively heavier, to the point that they now weigh around 300 pounds. The new spandex and nylon BioSuit runs on a whole new concept. Forget using gas pressurization, which exerts a force on the astronaut's body to protect it from the vacuum of space. The new suit relies on mechanical counter-pressure and offers a much greater range of motion.

The new suits principal creator, Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT says that traditional bulky spacesuits "do not afford the mobility and locomotion capability that astronauts need for partial gravity exploration missions. We really must design for greater mobility and enhanced human and robotic capability."

Currently most of the energy exerted by astronauts goes towards simply working against the suit to bend it, which is obviously a bit counterproductive.

"You can't do much bending of the arms or legs in that type of suit," Newman says.

When an astronaut is in a micro-gravity environment, such as on the International Space Station working in such a massive suit is manageable, but Newman says, "It's a whole different ballgame when we go to the moon or Mars, and we have to go back to walking and running, or loping."

The BioSuit will not only be “sexier”, but safer. Currently, if a traditional spacesuit is punctured by a tiny meteorite, for example, the astronaut must return to the space station or home base immediately, or life-threatening decompression could occur. With the BioSuit, a small, isolated puncture can simply be covered with a “Band-Aid” and the rest of the suit will be unaffected.

Newman hopes the BioSuit will be ready by the time humans are ready to launch an expedition to Mars, since she believes that the standard spacesuit could not handle the challenges of such a challenging exploratory mission.

The project was initially funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts.

Posted by Rebecca Sato

The History of the Spandex Spacesuit The First Spacesuit History Pressurized Suits Mercury Spacesuit Gemini Spacesuit Apollo Spacesuit Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) Extravehicular Mobility Unit Bio Suit- Spandex Spacesuit Howells, M. (2012). What is a flight suit?. Retrieved from The pressurized military flight suit was the first step in the creation of spacesuits. When the military had pilots fly, they could not go higher than 10,000 feet before it began to affect them. Therefore, the pressurized suit was created. The suit is crafted from layers of inflatable nylong, that protect the wearer from the adverse effects of the altitude. Wade, M. (n.d.). Mercury space suit. Retrieved from The Mercury spacesuit was the first in a long line of spacesuits. It was a custom-fitted, "soft" suit made of nylon. When inflated, it was very difficult to move in and it was only used as a last resort in case of cabin pressurization failure. Smithsonian Institute. (2007). 1965: Gemini iv umbilical. Retrieved from The Project Gemini spacesuit was the first multiuse suit (used for both indoor and outdoor). It was designed based from the previouss Mercury models, however has added design for mobility and ease of movement. The suit was connected via umbilical hose to the central shuttle, from which oxygen was pumped. It was designed for better insulation from the elements, and had an added parachute in case of an emergency. 1959-1963 1962-1966 1969-1979 1990-TODAY 2007-? 1979-2002, 2002-TODAY* *updated, modified version NASA. (n.d.). Interactive spacesuit activity:apollo. Retrieved from NASA. (n.d.). Interactive spacesuit activity:apollo. Retrieved from The Advanced Crew Escape Suit, or ACES, is the suit that is normally seen during liftoff and reentry. It is bright orange, earning it the nickname "the pumpkin suit." NASA. (n.d.). Interactive spacesuit activity:apollo. Retrieved from The Extravehicular Mobility Unit was, and continues to be used, only on spacewalks. It is sized modularly, meaning that it comes in separate parts that fit together, so that "one size fits all." NASA. (2007). Spandex space suit- best inventions of 2007. Retrieved from,28804,1677329_1678408_1678409,00.html The spandex spacesuit, or Bio-Suit, is the future of spacesuits. Presented in 2007 by NASA, the suit is comprised of elastic polymers for movement, and is incredibly light. The suit presents lots of opportunities for future space travel. THE END The spacesuit has had a long and very-much-changed history. From its beginnings in military flight suits to its modern Bio-Suit, the spacesuit has mainly changed over time according to different space missions and the goals that they hoped to accomplish. The Project Apollo spacesuit was a revolutionary design. It is water cooled, and requires no umbilical cord like that og the Gemini Program. The suit consisted of 9 layers of nylon, kapton, and teflon. It is used for moonwalking almost exclusively, as a separate suit was used fo inside the ship. The entire suit, though weighing 180 lbs on earth, weighed only 30 on the moon.

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