Bobbin of artificial silk produced by Legh Powell, 1885-1886.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
In 1884 Legh Powell discovered a proces for producing synthetic cellulose thread by disolving cotton wool in concentrated and heated zinc chloride solution and then squirting the thread through a glas nozzle into methylated spirit. The solution then coagulated into a fine thread which was then washed, dried and carbonised for incandescent lamp filaments (similar to the use of Swan's silk). The most important application of Legh Powell's zinc chloride proces was for the production of carbon lamp filaments. Its use as a production proces for textile thread seems to have been overlooked due to the contemporary development of Chardonnet's artificial silk.