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Fascinating facts about the invention
of the
Kevlar by Stephanie Kwolek in 1985.
KEVLAR®
Toward the end of the 1920s the next important breakthrough for DuPont Corporation came as a result of fundamental rather than applied research. The head of research noted at the time: "We are including in the budget for 1927 an item of $20,000 to cover what may be called, for want of a better name, pure science or fundamental research work...the sort of work we refer to...has the object of establishing or discovering new scientific facts." In a short time the group that had been put together under this budget had developed an understanding of radical polymerization and established the basic principles for condensation polymerization and the structure of condensation polymers. This led to the invention and commercialization of nylon in 1938--the beginning of the modern materials revolution. (Prior to this, the group yielded neoprene synthetic rubber in 1933.)

Many synthetic materials cascaded from DuPont research after that, forming the basis for many global businesses and products including household names such as Teflon® fluoropolymer resins and SilverStone® certified non-stick finishes, Stainmaster® flooring systems, Kevlar® brand fiber, Nomex® brand fiber and paper, Lycra® spandex fiber, Sontara® spun-laced fabric, Mylar® polyester film, Tyvek® spunbonded olefin, Cordura® nylon fiber, and Corian® solid surface material.

Kevlar Vest Relying on experience and instinct, Stephanie Kwolek invented one of the modern world's most readily recognized and widely used materials: Kevlar®. DuPont put its Pioneering Lab to work finding a viable commercial version of Kwolek's new crystalline polymers, the potential applications for which were obvious. The result was Kevlar® (first marketed in 1971), a fiber five times stronger ounce for ounce than steel, but about half the density of fiberglass. Kevlar® is best known to the public as the material from the which bulletproof vests are made; and in this use alone Kwolek's discovery has saved thousands of lives.
DuPont’s family of KEVLAR® brand fiber products provide a unique combination of toughness, extra-high tenacity and modulus, and exceptional thermal stability. These applications include cut, heat, and bullet / fragment resistant apparel, brake and transmission friction parts, gaskets, ropes and cables, composites, fiber optic cables, circuit board reinforcement, sporting goods, tires, automotive belts and hoses. KEVLAR® is often specified when requirements call for increased strength, reduced weight and/or extended wear life.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Stephanie Kwolek Biography   from The Great Idea Finder
Chemistry History   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
by Catherine Thimmesh, Melissa Sweet (Ill) / Hardcover - 64 pages (2000) / Houghton Mifflin

A dozen women are profiled in this collection of short, anecdotal biographies demonstrating that necessity, ingenuity, and luck all play a part in successful inventions. The final section tells girls how to patent their inventions, and an informed bibliography will do just that.
Feminine Ingenuity: How Women Inventors Changed America
by Anne L. MacDonald / Paperback - 540 pages (March 1994) / Ballantine Books
A sprightly, informative chronicle of women inventors in America--a two-steps- forward and one and a half steps back history that aptly mirrors the rise and fall of feminist movements over two centuries.
Women Inventors: Two Centuries of Discoveries That Have Shaped Our World
by Susan Casey / Paperback - 144 pages (October 1997) / Chicago Review Press
These inspiring stories of women inventors take the reader on a step-by-step journey through the
process of inventing.
Women Inventors & Their Discoveries (Profiles)
by Ethlie Ann Vare, Greg Ptacek (Contributor) / Hardcover (March 1993) / Oliver Pr
Interesting facts about 10 obscure American women who invented famous things fill the pages of this very readable book. Each informative chapter is devoted to the life of one remarkable woman.

ON THE SCREEN:
Bulletproof
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00 / Also VHS
A bullet travels up to 3,000 feet per second. So how can it be stopped? Surprisingly, there are many answers to this question.


ON THE WEB:
Kevlar
History of Kevlar from the official DuPont site.
(URL: www.heritage.dupont.com)
Kevlar The Wonder Material
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the United States Department of Energy.
(URL: www.lbl.gov/MicroWorlds/Kevlar/)
The "Lady Edisons" --Women Inventors in the 20th Century
From Innovative Lives at the Smithsonian Institution written by J.E. Bedi
(URL: invention.smithsonian.org/centerpieces/ilives/lecture05.html
)


DID YOU KNOW?:

  • In 2002 DuPont celebrated its 200th birthday.

  • A hockey goalie's mask is made out of fiberglass and Kevlar--the same material used in bulletproof vests.

 

The products® mentioned in this article are DuPont registered trademarks.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised February, 2005
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