Stephanie Kwolek created for DuPont a revolutionary material that is used in bullet-proof vests - a material that it is over 5 times as strong as the same thickness of steel. This exciting product was created in the late 1960’s,first marketed in 1971 and originated from a little experimentation and original thinking by Kwolek. The result ; a new material had emerged capable of stopping a bullet travelling at over 1000 ft per second if it is stack into only 20 or so layers. DuPont aren’t the only company to encourage their experts to experiment and bend the rules of research a little – and those that do sometimes come up with world-beating products. The end uses to which the fibre has been put include heat proof, fragment resisting and reinforcing fabrics as well as fibre optic cables, sports goods and composites like automobile tyres. The general specifications for the material embrace enormous strength and a density much less than that of fibreglass – an astonishing combination of properties.
Inventors & Inventions
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Kevlar is a polymer ( a polyamide - actually poly(p-phenylene terephtalamide) but no-one is going to expect you to write that down in your GCSE exam papers ! ) and is therefore made up of long-chain molecules. Its chemistry dictates that the chains are very long and straight - an ideal combination for a material that might be used in the textiles industry. Equally important with a material like this is that
designers look for ways to use properties of the materials and so new uses are constantly appearing. Whilst speeding bullets are perhaps not that common on earth one thing common in space are speeding particles. Especially if a spacecraft is re-entering the atmosphere or of spacecraft (e.g.‘Giotto’) exploring (photographing) bodies like comets that are collections of dust and ice .... travelling at over 100,000 kph. Even tiny particles such as those in these environ-ments can penetrate steel with ease. With the expanding use of technology in exploring space new uses are bound to be continually created.