Kevlar inventor, pioneer woman chemist Kwolek dies at 90 (Update)

Jun 20, 2014

Stephanie Kwolek, a US chemist who invented the Kevlar fiber used in body armor and other bullet-proof gear, has died, her former employer said Friday. She was 90.

Kwolek, who worked for DuPont when she invented Kevlar, died in a hospice, media sources said, citing her friend and former co-worker Rita Vasta, who did not give a cause of death.

"We are all saddened at the passing of DuPont scientist Stephanie Kwolek, a creative and determined chemist and a true pioneer for women in science," DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman said in a statement.

"She leaves a wonderful legacy of thousands of lives saved and countless injuries prevented by products made possible by her discovery."

Kwolek invented Kevlar, an ultra-strong and extremely lightweight fiber, in the 1960s in what she called "a case of serendipity," The Washington Post reported.

She was looking for a material that could be used to reinforce car tires that was lighter weight and more fuel efficient than the metal previously in use.

The liquid crystal polymer she created became Kevlar, which is five times stronger than steel and extremely lightweight, DuPont said on its website.

Today, the fiber is used in body armor as well as sporting gear, boats—and yes, puncture-resistant tires.

Kwolek in 1996 was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation "for her contributions to the discovery, development and liquid crystal processing of high-performance aramid fibers which provide new products worldwide to save lives and benefit humankind."

Explore further: Major chemical companies turn to new specialties for growth

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Major chemical companies turn to new specialties for growth

Nov 13, 2013

Triggered by the recession that began in 2008, major chemical companies are aggressively re-inventing themselves through multi-billion dollar overhauls, reports Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the ...

A silky spin on protective armor

May 13, 2013

At seven times the toughness of Kevlar, a silk produced by the Caerostris darwini spider of Madagascar is more robust than any other material—synthetic or natural. Most spider silks are about two times ...

Sweden returns pre-Incan funeral shroud to Peru (Update)

Jun 16, 2014

A rare and fragile pre-Incan funeral shroud was displayed to reporters Monday, part of the first batch of ancient Paracas textiles that Sweden is returning to Peru 80 years after they were smuggled out by ...

Hagfish slime as a model for tomorrow's natural fabrics

Nov 28, 2012

Nylon, Kevlar and other synthetic fabrics: Step aside. If new scientific research pans out, people may be sporting shirts, blouses and other garments made from fibers modeled after those in the icky, super-strong ...

Ebola patients await death in Guinea wards

Apr 03, 2014

Bakari Soumaoro carried his sick friend all the way to the hospital on his back, not realizing that the man's fever and chills were caused by one of the deadliest diseases on Earth.

Recommended for you

Researchers jailbreak iOS 7.1.2

38 minutes ago

Security researchers at the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) have discovered a way to jailbreak current generation Apple iOS devices (e.g., iPhones and iPads) running the latest iOS software.

How to secure the cloud

52 minutes ago

For many of us, the primary reason we use "the cloud" is for storage—whether it's storing email through services like Gmail and Yahoo!, photos on Flickr, or personal documents on Dropbox. Many organizations ...

User comments : 0