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Stephanie Kwolek

Stephanie KwolekStephanie Kwolek Stephanie Kwolek (1923–2014) was an American chemist. She invented Kevlar, an exceptionally strong yet lightweight synthetic fibre—eight times stronger than steel wire. Before discovering a love of chemistry, Kwolek had wanted to be a fashion designer. In 1959, she devised the Nylon Rope Trick, which demonstrated a simple way of producing nylon in a beaker at room temperature.

The invention of Kevlar

Kevlar molecules Kevlar molecules Kwolek began development work on the material at the DuPont company, where she was an employee, in 1964. At the time it was expected that petrol shortages would mean a new material would be needed for making tyres. While experimenting with certain kinds of polymers (long, carbon-based molecules), Kwolek created a strange solution. It should have been a clear, thick fluid, like the nylon polymer, but instead was thin and cloudy. She persuaded a colleague to create fibres from this solution using a machine called a spinneret. Kwolek found the fibre to be much stronger than nylon.

Stephanie Kwolek had originally planned to become a doctor. She hoped she could earn enough money from a temporary job at DuPont to attend medical school. But she found the work interesting and stayed at the company for 40 years.

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