For centuries humankind has relied upon various plants and animals to
provide the raw materials for fabrics and clothing. Silkworms, sheep,
beaver, buffalo deer, and even palm leaves are just some of the natural
resources that have been used to meet these needs. However, in the last
century scientists have turned to chemistry and technology to create and
enhance many of the fabrics we now take for granted.
There are two main categories of man-made fibers: those that are made from
natural products (cellulosic fibers) and those that are synthesized solely
from chemical compounds (noncellulosic polymer fibers). Rayon is a
natural-based material that is made from the cellulose of wood pulp or
cotton. This natural base gives it many of the characteristics—low
cost, diversity, and comfort—that have led to its popularity and
success. Today, rayon is considered to be one of the most versatile and
economical man-made fibers available.