Let's take a journey back in time to explore the origins of Kevlar. Throughout history, humans have relied on materials provided by nature, such as wood, stone, metals and animal elements, for various purposes like shelter and tools. However, a significant breakthrough occurred in the 1930s when an American researcher named Wallace Carothers, working at DuPont, developed Nylon – the first fully synthetic fiber. This innovative creation replaced silk just in time for World War II rationing. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester brought about a new era in materials science with their enhanced properties.
Now let's fast forward to the present and ask ourselves why Kevlar holds such importance today. Kevlar is an extraordinary super strong plastic known for its ability to protect against heat, fire, electricity, chemicals and cuts. It surpasses ordinary materials as both Kevlar 29 and Kevlar 49 are more than eight times stronger than steel wire of the same weight. Its exceptional strength can be attributed to its unique internal structure with molecules arranged in parallel lines and tightly woven fibers.
What sets Kevlar apart is that it cannot be easily produced from raw materials like other fabrics. It is exclusively manufactured by DuPont – a renowned chemical company.
There are two main types of Kevlar; Kevlar 29 and Kevlar 49, which are both part of the aramid family. Another protective material in this family is called Nomex. Aramids are synthetic aromatic polyamides that have strong, ring like structures. The strength of Kevlar comes from the way its molecules connect to form long chains.
Kevlar is a reliable material used for protection and its applications are almost limitless. It is used in various products such as clothing, accessories, equipment, tires and even consumer electronics. The unique properties of Kevlar, such as its ability to expand when heated and its excellent resistance against abrasion, make it essential in a wide range of industries.
In terms of safety, Kevlar is well known for its use in military body armour and firefighter gear. Its exceptional strength to weight ratio provides crucial protection against bullets, knives and extreme temperatures. Protective gear made with Kevlar is significantly lighter and thinner compared to traditional materials, making it extremely valuable for law enforcement agencies, security personnel and SWAT teams.
While there are many advantages to using Kevlar, it also has limitations. Due to its high tensile strength, it doesn't fare well when subjected to compressive forces. This means it may not be suitable for applications where compressive strength is important like building construction or bridge engineering.
So, let's take a look at how Kevlar is made, shall we? It all starts with creating the basic plastic that forms Kevlar using chemistry and a condensation reaction. The chemical structure of Kevlar naturally arranges itself into tiny straight rods that tightly pack together, forming additional hydrogen bonds. These bonds give the material exceptional strength.
Kevlar is widely used in everyday protection gear like gloves, jackets and pants for motorcycle riders. It also finds its way into the automotive industry to enhance safety and performance in components such as brake pads and belts.
With its incredible versatility and strength, Kevlar continues to play a significant role in shaping our modern world. It's truly a material worth recognising and appreciating.