Rebecca Stephens, of Ilam School, asks :-
How do you make nylon out of coal?
Alan Happer, an organic chemist at the University of Canterbury, responded.
The short answer is you don't, although you could.
Nylon is made by heating together two substances called adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine. At one time both of these were made from coal tar, an oil obtained as a by-product when coal was heated to turn it into coke. However, nylon was first produced in 1938, and by this time the best source for both adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine was probably petroleum rather than coal. It is possible that some of these materials came from coal tar at first, especially in Europe, which had lots of coal, but in the United States of America, where nylon was invented, they were probably made from petroleum.