Monday, July 28, 2008

Kevlar - The Wonder Fiber

Author: Taylor Hartley

Kevlar - The Miracle Fiber

You've heard of Kevlar before. It's the material used in bullet proof vests. To date, 3,000 officer's lives have been saved. Here, we'll discuss what makes Kevlar so incredibly strong and its applications.

What you can take away from this article:

* The basics of the synthetic Kevlar

* The molecular secret behind Kevlar's strength

* Kevlar's modern day applications

Above, I refer to Kevlar as a synthetic. This means that nowhere in nature does Kevlar occur; it is man-made. Kevlar was discovered in 1965 by DuPont. Before this, scientists had known of the strength of polymers, but had been unable to produce them. By using 'light elements,' DuPont was able to create a very strong polymer. Using these 'light elements,' Kevlar is able to offer its services at an incredibly light weight.

Kevlar makes use of a poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide as one of its ingredients. This allows for amazing heat resistance. In fact, Kevlar can protect from heat exposure of up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. As you might imagine, this is quite helpful when working in a foundry.

* The molecular secret behind the strength of Kevlar

First off, think of the molecular chains that make up Kevlar as spaghetti. Now, which is going to be stronger, a plate of cooked noodles or a box of uncooked noodles? That's right, the box of sturdy (relatively speaking, of course) uncooked pasta is much stronger because all of the chains lay side by side, adding layers of strength. It's imperative for Kevlar's molecular chains to be fully extended and aligned perfectly to achieve its impressive stiffness and strength. FYI: The arrangement in which the molecular chain is placed is known as a crystalline structure.

So, we know that when the molecular chains are laid out like long strands of stiff, uncooked spaghetti, their strength is fantastic; but there's a problem. If you turn a box of uncooked spaghetti upside down, all the noodles fall out! Well, the Kevlar chains have a force (most easily related to magnetism) holding them together called hydrogen bonds. These electrostatic forces between the molecules hole the chains together like super glue.

* Modern day applications of Kevlar

Now that we're through all the technical jargon, let's talk about Kevlar as it relates to us today. Kevlar is popular in underwater constructions, as once it's submerged, Kevlar is 20 times stronger than steel! In the air, it's 5 times stronger than steel (on an equal weight basis). And you can thank Kevlar for windsurfing sails that easily withstand wind force of 60 mph. Certainly you remember that Kevlar is also a key ingredient in bullet proof vests!

Not only is this wonder-material used for saving lives, it's also used for saving fingers. Kevlar is knitted into gloves to make a fine mesh that is extremely cut, burn and rip resistant. Kevlar gloves are available in a variety of shapes and thicknesses. They provide dexterity, comfort and durability all at once. They work well in many situations. For lighter work, you could try an extra fine knit Kevlar glove. These are great for everyday environments requiring protection from small blades or sharp objects.

As your work environment gets more complex, so must your protection. If your work environment is littered with brambles and sharp edges, look to a set of terry cloth Kevlar knit gloves. Here you'll get double protection. First off, the tough Kevlar material holds it's own, while the small 'terry loops' help prevent snags.

Still don't feel safe enough? You can find another level of safety with Kevlar sleeves. These tough sleeves protect your arms from cuts, burns and bruises. Protective sleeves are great for environments with sparks. They come in very handy for foundry workers. Combined with a set of Kevlar hot mill flame retardant bandtops, you can rest assured your hands are safe.

For the most extreme environments, Kevlar is simply a must. Its functions reach much further than gloves and sleeves, but when you're working with dangerous applications, hand protection is paramount. To learn more about Kevlar gloves and sleeves, go to http://www.unitedglove.com.

About the author: Taylor Hartley researches and reviews products and services for the online community.

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