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Acrylic fibers are synthetic fibers made from a polymer (polyacrylonitrile) with an average molecular weight of -100,000, about 1900 monomer units. For a fiber to be called "acrylic" in the US, the polymer must contain at least 85% acrylonitrile monomer. Typical comonomers are vinyl acetate or methyl acrylate. DuPont created the first acrylic fibers in 1941 and trademarked them under the name Orlon. It was first developed in the mid-1940s but was not produced in large quantities until the 1950s. Strong and warm, acrylic fiber is often used for sweaters and tracksuits and as linings for boots and gloves, as well as in furnishing fabrics and carpets. It is manufactured as a filament, then cut into short staple lengths similar to wool hairs, and spun into yarn.
Modacrylic is a modified acrylic fiber that contains at least 35% and at most 85% acrylonitrile monomer. The comonomers vinyl chloride, vinylidene chloride or vinyl bromide used in modacrylic give the fiber flame retardant properties. End-uses of modacrylic include faux fur, wigs, hair extensions and protective clothing.