History of Kevlarhome






An Inventive Woman

Kevlar was first synthesized in 1964 by Stephanie Kwolek at the Dupont laboratories in Wilmington, Delaware in the United States.

Stephanie Kwolek

          Kwolek was born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania in 1923. As a child she wanted to be a doctor but was also keenly interested in science. She attended the women’s college, which formed part of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and gained a Bsc in Chemistry in 1946. Due to a lack of funds for a medical course she took up a research position at the Dupont textile fibres laboratory in Buffalo, New York.

                             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.


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