The Idiot’s Guide to Kevlar

Kevlar is a trademarked name for an extremely tough material that acquires its strength from its spider web-like “aramid” weaving.

Kevlar was first created in 1965 for Dupont by Stephanie Kwolek and Herbert Blades, and it is a precarious material; the aramid weaving process will turn a liquid into a solid like magic, and creates fibres which are incredibly difficult to corrode.

These fibres are also resistant to heat and have no melting point. Yet, get a little chlorine on it, and it can degrade. Strange, hmm?

In addition to being extremely resilient for the most part, Kevlar is also quite light, and has rubber-like qualities. These factors lend Kevlar to being a powerful multipurpose product; the lightness and strength of the material makes it ideal for bulletproof vests.

Modifying Kevlar into something else

Modifying it with additional treatments and different weaves can allow it to be used in brake pads, replace Asbestos, and be implemented in other forms of body armour in addition to bulletproof vests. When modified ever so slightly, it becomes another proprietary product called “Nomex”, which is a flame retardant.

The different ‘flavours’ of Kevlar are mostly numbered; the flagship Kevlar mentioned above isn’t, and as mentioned, it’s rubber-like.

However, the other two popular types of Kevlar; Kevlar 29, and Kevlar 49, both subsequently have different properties.

Kevlar 29 emulates a fabric-like quality, whereas Kevlar 49 is extremely firm and strong and can be used to manufacture products which require great strength and tolerate high velocity and shock.

Not bad for being a distant relative of nylon.

Whether you’re being shot at with bullets, or a hurricane is throwing boards through your house like a hot knife through butter –you’ll benefit from using Kevlar fabric over just about any other material required for safety.

Near Indestructible

Kevlar isn’t completely indestructible, but it’s very near to being so.

It can be pierced, and it can buckle, but only under very specific circumstances. But what super hero doesn’t have their Kryptonite? The reason for this, and the reason it doesn’t replace metal is because it doesn’t compress very well. It breaks under extreme crushing pressure.

But where it lacks in pressure handling, it makes up for by being tensile; almost 8 times as tensile as metal!

Kevlar is different than anything that exists in the natural world, and it, along with that second-cousin Nomex, are poster children for the family of chemicals called aramids, which is short for synthetic aromatic polyamides.

But what the heck is that? Synthetic who in the what now?

Synthetic simply means it was made out of chemicals in a lab, very much unlike say, cotton. Aromatic means Kevlar’s molecules are similar to benzene: they have a ring like structure.

Polyamide means those molecules band together and form long chains. They run inside, around, and parallel to the Kevlar molecules and hold it all together. Sort of like we use steel rods inside cement pillars of a building, or your bones integrate with your body and its muscles and organs.

Lastly, a polymer is made of a whole bunch of monomers; molecules that are all identical, and bond together. Poly. Mono. Get it? No? Think plastic. It’s one of the most common polymers out there, and it’s all around you. It’s probably one of the greatest inventions in the modern air?

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