An Inventive Woman
Kevlar was first synthesized in 1964 by Stephanie Kwolek at the Dupont laboratories in Wilmington, Delaware in the United States.
IN 1950 she moved to the new Research Laboratory in Wilmington, Delaware. Here she specialized in low-temperature processes for the preparation of condensation polymers, trying to create highly rigid and strong petroleum based fibres. Her early successes included the patented Kapton and Nomex aramid fibres, as well as instigating research into liquid crystalline polymers which led to the creation of the first pure monomers used to synthesize polybenzamide.
She took some of the intermediates from these processes which were usually too unstable to remain for more than a few seconds, and created a suitable solvent which allowed for low temperature polymerization of these products. When placed under these conditions the monomers formed a fluid cloudy substance, in contrast to the usually clear and viscous form of most previously discovered polymers. However Kwolek felt that this substance was worth persevering with and insisted that it was spun into a fibre. The product was an incredibly strong and stiff fibre, the like of which had never been seen before.
The new polymer turned out to be one of the prototypes of Kevlar, this was in 1965, but it was not until 1971 that it was first marketed due to the problems that processing this very insoluble, stiff fibre.