Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Little Trivia about Kevlar

The inventor of Kevlar was the chemist Stephanie Kwolek, working for duPont Chemical in 1966.

Kevlar is five times stronger than the same weight of steel. It is a polymer--an important class of compounds starting with the polyester in your socks and ending with the materials that repair arteries.

Kevlar does not rust or corrode. It is used as bullet-resistant shielding, from vests to windows. There might also be Kevlar in your brake cables, your skis, and in the materials for your building.

Ms. Kwolek invented many other polymers we use today. She was born in 1923, and worked for 40 years at DuPont. Twenty-eight patents are held by her in that 40 years. She was inducted into the Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1995 (heck, what took them so long?)  I learned about her right after I learned about pop-up books, right there at the Smithsonian.

She was originally planning to be a doctor. She's saved a lot of lives out there without medical school. Nowadays she's semi-retired, serving on a lot of Science Foundation boards.

Some people just never give up.

Wikipedia has an article about her here.


Slamdunk said...

Interesting post Ann T.

Glad Ms. Kwolek achieved at such a high level.

It is odd how what seems to be a closed door at a time in life actually makes much more sense in hindsight.

Lt said...

Good background on a vital piece of our equipment. That said, I'll take exception with the phrase "bullet-proof shielding" and, being one of the lucky ones who gets to wear the stuff, remind your readers it is "bullet-resistant shielding" at best, and hot as heck on the 4th of July :)

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
That is a salient point, ans well worth taking to heart. Thank you very much!

Ann T.

Dear Lt,
I will change the wording in the post. I appreciate the correction!

Thanks for writing in!
Ann T.

Yellow said...

I never knew a female made the stinky stuff, I guess because of the smell I always assumed it was a male. It sounds like she had a wonderful life. I am so greatful for Kevlar. But did you find out why it smells and how to get the stink out?

Bob G. said...

Graet insight on Ms. Kwolek.

Wonder if she worked out of the DuPont facilities in Delaware?

Reminds me of the way teflon was discovered...and post-it notes.

Good stuff.

Ann T. said...

Dear Yellow,
LOL, I've read your laundry posts before!!

I think a lot of polymer fibers (polyester included) absorb odors. And girl, asking me for laundry advice is a bad move!

All I know is Tide with bleach, hang dry the quick dry stuff, and heat-blast everything else.

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
She might well have worked out of Delaware, I do think she was in the East (that's my Texan side talking).

I still love that guy who invented post-it notes. Inventors are way cool.

I do think they sometimes don't have targeted outcomes, they get the Eureka! And thank goodness for that!!

Thanks for writing in!