Today’s Illustration: An Amazing Invention Which Has Saved 1000’s Of Lives!

. . . . . 

What: Kevlar — Kevlar is five times stronger than the same weight of steel.

Kevlar is used for “underwater cables, tennis rackets, skis, airplanes, ropes, brake linings, space vehicles, boats, parachutes, skis, and building materials . . . car tires, firefighter boots, hockey sticks, cut-resistant gloves, and even armored cars,” drumheads, frying pans, and body armor.

Used For Body Armor: “When a handgun bullet strikes body armor, it is caught in a “web” of very strong fibers. These fibers absorb and disperse the impact energy that is transmitted to the vest from the bullet, causing the bullet to deform or “mushroom.” Additional energy is absorbed by each successive layer of material in the vest, until such time as the bullet has been stopped. . . . Because the fibers work together both in the individual layer and with other layers of material in the vest, a large area of the garment becomes involved in preventing the bullet from penetrating. . . . . Unfortunately, at this time no material exists that would allow a vest to be constructed from a single ply of material.” — thoughtco


“police officers have relied on the KEVLAR® brand for more than 25 years because of the superior bullet-stopping power it offers. That power and protection comes packed at an extremely light weight, which provides both comfort and freedom of movement to those that wear KEVLAR®.” — whatiskevlar

. . . . .

Who:  Stephanie Kwolek

  • born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania
  • born in 1923
  • 1946 she graduated from what is called today, Carnegie-Mellon University
  • She filed for 28 patents over 40 years
  • Kwolek was a research chemist working for DuPont.
  • One of her patents was for a material called Kevlar in 1966
  • Died June 18, 2014 (aged 90)

When: It was invented in 1966 by Kwolek, who was working for Dupont Labs.

“in anticipation of a gasoline shortage. In 1964, her group began searching for a new lightweight strong fiber to use for light, but strong, tires.” –wikipedia

. . . . .

Quotations From Articles:
“I made a discovery”
“In the course of that work I made a discovery,” she says modestly. Under specific conditions, the polymers she was working with would form liquid crystals in a solution, which no polymer had ever done before. And instead of the usual “bent” polymer molecules—she likens them to spaghetti—these were straight, like match sticks. When the cloudy solution was “spun”—forced through the tiny holes of a device called a spinneret—the straight fibers lined up parallel to each other. This made the new fiber very stiff and very strong.

It was not easy for Kwolek to get the polymer solution into the spinneret. “That solution was very different from the standard polymer solution,” she recalls. “It had a lot of strange features. I think someone who wasn’t thinking very much or just wasn’t aware or took less interest in it, would have thrown it out.” Kwolek filtered it to see if the cloudy solution was contaminated. It wasn’t. Still, she continues, “when I submitted it for spinning the guy refused to spin it. He said it would plug up the holes of his spinneret, because he assumed that [it had] solid particles. So it was a while before he consented to spinning it. I think either I wore him down or else he felt sorry for me.”
. . . . .
The Creation of Kevlar
When a chemist spins a fiber, she sends it to a lab to test its strength, stiffness, and other properties. This new fiber came back from the lab with a stiffness at least nine times greater than anything she’d made before. “I was very hesitant about telling anyone,” she says. “I didn’t want to be embarrassed if someone had made a mistake. So I sent the fiber down several times. The numbers always came back in the same vicinity.” Only then did she announce her results, and DuPont realized it had a fiber with great potential. After much more work and refinement by the group, Kevlar was introduced in 1971. The fiber has since found more than 200 applications.
“I love doing chemistry,”
Kwolek says. “And I love making discoveries.” Her careful, dedicated approach to research helped her throughout a 40-year career at DuPont. “I discovered over the years that I seem to see things that other people did not see,” she explains. “If things don’t work out I don’t just throw them out, I struggle over them, to try and see if there’s something there.” It was just that will to carefully observe, struggle, and stay the course that led to her famous fiber. Today, police officers and others whose lives depend on Kevlar often come up to her to tell of their experiences. One Viriginia police officer even had Kwolek autograph his bulletproof vest, which had saved his life. “I feel very lucky,” she says. “So many people work all their lives and they don’t make a discovery that’s of benefit to other people.”
–kwolek bio
. . . . .

Key Biblical Thoughts:

  • conviction
  • temptation
  • sin
  • confession
  • revival
  • resistance
  • hard-hearted
  • persistence / perseverance
  • quick / short-term answers
  • struggles

. . . . . 

Sermonic Examples:

[Include whatever details you find useful]

Listen to what Stephanie Kwolek said about the discovery . . . .

I never in a thousand years expected that little liquid crystal to develop into what it did” — “I discovered over the years that I seem to see things that other people did not see . . . If things don’t work out I don’t just throw them out, I struggle over them, to try and see if there’s something there.

It was her willingness to struggle, to stay with it, to see where it might lead, that lead to the invention of a fabric that would save thousands of lives and limbs!  It is when you just throw away the struggle that you never find out that there is something there . . . . .

. . . . . .


. . . . . .

“Kevlar is designed to protect against some of the most powerful and deadly bullets available.  Could you imagine its strength against a small round 22?  Now imagine it against an air pistol or a BB gun.

It is possible to be so resistant to the working of the Lord on your heart —  in your life — that His Word and actions roll off of your mind and heart like BBs off of Kevlar. . . .

Other Information & Links:
— adapted from I{nventing Modern America

The watery substance at first looked like a mistake. The American Chemical Society says: “Most researchers would have rejected the solution because it was fluid and cloudy rather than viscous and clear. But Kwolek took a chance and spun the solution into fibers more strong and stiff than had ever been created.”


Hear NPR Stories On Kevlar / TECHNOLOGY / A Visit To A Kevlar Factory

I never in a thousand years expected that little liquid crystal to develop into what it did,” Kwolek told the News Journal in 2007.

What it developed into was Kevlar, a material in body armor that has saved thousands of livesThe substance is also used in tires, helmets, kayaks and spacecraft — not to mention extreme sports equipment.

Kevlar is long-lived, lightweight and five times stronger than steel, and it can bend without shattering, reports the News Journal. NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce visited a Kevlar factory in 2005 and found that Kevlar has another extraordinary trait. “I wasn’t prepared for how surprisingly beautiful it is,” she said. “It looks like these beautiful bobbins of just thousands of gold threads. … It’s like you’re going to make a tapestry.”

Hall of Fame INTERVIEW

“I was able to be Creative and work as hard as I wanted.”


Where did you do most of your inventing?
I did all my inventing at the DuPont Experimental Station, in Wilmington, Delaware, where I worked in the Fibers Department, Pioneering Research Laboratory, for 36 years. Before that I spent 4 years with DuPont in Buffalo, New York, with the same group of scientists, while the lab in Wilmington was being built. I got considerable independence, and I certainly appreciated it. I think this was because of the nature of my supervisor and the way he liked to work. He had his own interests that kept him very busy. He was always writing or attending meetings or doing his own research. With this freedom I was able to be creative and work as hard as I wanted.

Are you satisfied with the state of research today?
I’d like to see corporations place greater emphasis on long-term research. At present the tendency is for short-term research and immediate answers. You must have time to think, and in the present environment everything is rush, rush, rush. I don’t see how you can be creative if you’re constantly distracted. You need time to read, to think, and to keep up with the literature. Discoveries, particularly those that open a new field of chemistry or technology, generally take much more thinking and work than just making a modification to an existing product.

Tell me about your moment of discovery.
It was terribly exciting because it was so unexpected. I had been assigned to look for the next-generation high-performance fiber. I started working with the more intractable para-orientated aromatic polyamides, which are made up of rodlike molecules, unlike the very flexible molecules in the nylon that you find in stockings and other clothing. This project involved quite a bit of work, not only in making the polymers but also in trying to find a solvent for them. I finally succeeded in finding a solvent, but the solutions turned out to be unlike anything we had previously seen in the laboratory. They were cloudy, opalescent upon being stirred, and of low viscosity. Ordinarily these solutions would have been discarded.

To get a fiber, you have to force a polymer solution through the very tiny holes of a spinneret. I talked to the person in charge of the spinning unit, but he refused to spin my cloudy, low-viscosity liquid-crystalline solution. He said it would plug up the holes of his spinneret and, furthermore, it had the viscosity of water, unlike regular polymer solutions. He assumed the cloudiness was due to the presence of paniculate. After much discussion with me, he did spin it, and it spun with no problems. The first sign that we really had something unusual occurred as I stood by the spinning equipment and tried to break some of the newly spun fibers. Unlike ordinary nylon, this fiber was very difficult to break by hand. At that moment I knew we had a most unusual fiber.

Fibers are tested for tensile strength, elongation at break, and stiffness. I had the as-spun fibers tested, and the results came back with extraordinary numbers. I had the tests repeated a number of times before I became convinced that I had made a significant discovery. My supervisor and laboratory director immediately realized the potential of these fibers and process, and the program was greatly expanded. This discovery opened up a whole new field of polymer chemistry.

What had you been looking for, exactly?
I had been looking for a lightweight fiber strong and stiff enough to use in reinforcement. At just about this time—it was 1964—there was talk of a gasoline shortage, and we thought we could use a reinforcing fiber lighter than steel for radial tires. A lighter-weight vehicle would require less gasoline. We were not very successful with the tire industry. It was using cheaper steel wire for reinforcement, and the change to fiber would have meant changing machinery at the tire plants. So we expanded our research for new end-use applications, and we now have more than 200 end-use applications for Kevlar.

Was your discovery intuitive or the result of a scientific process?
My discovery involved both intuition and the scientific process. It also involved some good luck and perseverance, when conditions looked most hopeless. An eye trained to observe small differences in progress and product helped too. And creativity made a difference.

How do you account for that? Were you creative as a child?
Yes. As a child during the Depression I did not have many purchased toys. Instead I spent hours drawing fashionable clothes for my paper dolls. When my mother wasn’t home, I secretly used her sewing machine to make clothes for my dolls. Both my parents were creative people, and my father was a naturalist by avocation. I created a number of scrapbooks containing leaves and seeds gathered with his help from a wooded area near my home. I also wrote some poetry and played school with neighborhood children—with myself as the teacher.

Who has been the most significant person in your career?
My mother. My father died when I was ten, and she brought up my brother and me. She was an intelligent woman of great determination and strong will, yet she had a great sense of humor. I’ve always admired her, and I think she was very significant in molding my character and my ability to do the things I later did.

What new invention would you like to create?
My interest has always been in fabrics, and despite the fact that most interest right now is in natural fibers, I get tired of looking at wrinkled clothes. I’d like to see a new fiber that didn’t wrinkle but that really had the feel of cotton or another natural fiber. However, if I were entering college now, I would probably go into genetics.

JIM QUINN is writer-in-residence at the National Inventors Hall of Fame and writes “Hall of Fame Report” for Invention & Technology.

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