Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Kevlar: Inventions by Women A-Z


Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014)

Stephanie Kwolek wanted to be a medical doctor someday. After attending college and becoming a chemist, she accepted a temporary position at DuPont as a research scientist, hoping to save enough for medical school. Instead, DuPont offered her a permanent position and a promotion she couldn't turn down, changing the course of her life. 

Stephanie later said, "I think one of the reasons I've stayed so long is that back in 1946, women were only able to work in the laboratories for a few years, then they'd get pushed into so called women's jobs. I had something to prove and also the work was very interesting." 

We can be thankful Stephanie made a career at DuPont and had something to prove. In 1965, while studying long molecules at low temperature, in her search for a lightweight plastic that could be used in car tires (to possibly reduce gas mileage), she discovered a substance that was lightweight and incredibly strong. The discovery led to the invention of a synthetic material called Kevlar, which when tested, was 5 times stronger than steel out of water and 20 times stronger under water. It was also heat and corrosion resistant.  
Aramid fiber2.jpg
Kevlar® is a liquid, which is then 
converted into fiber that can be 
woven into a textile material. 

Since 1965, Kevlar has been used to strengthen and improve close to 200 products. Here are some examples:
  • skis
  • safety helmets
  • hiking and camping gear
  • suspension bridge cables
  • bulletproof vests (invaluable to law enforcement officers, police dogs, and soldiers in the field)
  • clothing (Kevlar is resistant to wear and corrosion)
  • fiber optic cables
  • firefighter suits (Kevlar is flame resistant)
  • fuel hoses
  • airplane parts
  • tires (radial; and racing car tires)
  • spacecraft parts
  • canoes
  • tennis racquets
  • rope  
 
 
Image result for free image of kevlar bulletproof

Kevlar has made the world a whole lot safer by adding incredible strength (without added weight) to many, many products. Countless lives have been saved as a result of this invention.



Commenting on her discovery, Stephanie Kwolek said, “I don’t think there’s anything like saving someone’s life to bring you satisfaction and happiness.” She has received numerous awards for her research, including induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, an honor shared with other great inventors, among them, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, and Lewis Pasteur.  





Sources:
http://www.women-inventors.com/Stephanie-Kwolek.asp; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevlar
http://www.famousscientists.org/stephanie-kwolek/; https://www.cpp.edu/~nova/scientists/articles/kwol.html


Copyright 2015 © Sharon Marie Himsl

29 comments:

  1. Kelver certainly made her contribution to the world of discovery.
    Excellent and interesting post.

    Yvonne.

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  2. Sorry for putting the lady's name incorrect . I must put it right by saying Stephanie Kwolek made a great contribution in the world of discovery.
    Yvonne.

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  3. When I worked for British Aerospace Space Systems I remember them weaving kevlar to create satellite dishes with specific footprints to go on the spacecraft. Very useful stuff.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    Replies
    1. Wow, so you have seen kevlar used...very cool...

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  4. Awesome. Great stuff Kevlar. Good on Stephanie.

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  5. We had a plant here in Nashville called DuPont--I assume it was the same company. They had a lot of layoffs a while ago...I don't know if they're still in existence. Sounds like some pretty important work was being done by the company.

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    Replies
    1. Hmm.....DuPont must have been downsizing. I can't imagine them not still profiting from this invention!

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  6. Because I watch so many crime shows, I knew about Kevlar vests. I didn't realize Kevlar is used in so many other things. Go Stephanie!
    ~Visiting from AtoZ

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    Replies
    1. I feel I should have known, but did not know the name of this material until doing this post.

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  7. This is so cool! I see so many males featured in my girl's school materials like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. It would be great if the women on these blogs could get in there too. Not to knock the traditional favorites, but these more recent inventions might spark the kid's imaginations more and show girls what they could potentially do career-wise.

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    Replies
    1. I like that our girls have more famous women to identify with now :) They need to see both sides of course.

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  8. Very cool, way to go Stephanie! Everytime I read or hear someone say women can't ....I go crazy, women can and do provided no one gets in their way.

    Sandy at Bridge and Beyond

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    Replies
    1. I find all of these women very inspiring. Nice to meet you, Sandy :)

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  9. I would say that all the male inventors are in fine company with Stephanie Kwolek.

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    Replies
    1. ....over from the A to Z challenge.

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    2. I'm glad she made the Hall of Fame list. Nice to meet you, Susan :)

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  10. Hi Sharon .. I know a bit about Kevlar .. but had no idea it was a woman who actually invented it - clever lady, and thankfully DuPont realised what an asset the product was ..

    Cheers Hilary

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    Replies
    1. Isn't this a wonderful surprise? And Kevlar's use continues to grow....so amazing.

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  11. Another amazing lady and I wonder how they know where to start? How would one know to make something like this. Obviously this is why I could never be a scientist

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    Replies
    1. Smile :) I wanted to be a scientist once upon a time, but alas....babies and chemistry got the best of me...

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  12. It's incredible how many things where discover 'by accident' while trying to discover something else :-)

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  13. Hmm....true. I wonder if that's true for most discoveries. Some of my best recipes were discovered by accident---even my current home.

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  14. I'd heard of Kevlar in relation to the police vests, but I had no idea it had so many other uses. What a wonderful invention — and inventor.

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  15. Thanks Sharon, another very interesting post! Yay for our women inventors .. it must have been hard choosing.

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  16. Kevlar is everywhere isn't it. What an inspiring woman! Thanks for sharing.

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