Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar, passed away on June 18th at the age of 90. Born to a pair of Polish immigrants, Kwolek attributes her fascination with science to her parents. After graduating from college in 1946, she went on to be a chemist at DuPont, the third largest chemical company in the entire world. In addition to being an all-around STEM badass, Kwolek blazed trails for women in the science world by following her calling.
To celebrate her long and inspirational life, here are 5 unexpected ways Kevlar is used - truly showing that Kwolek’s groundbreaking discovery is just as dynamic as she was.
In 2008, scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology used Kevlar as the fabric through which they weaved nanowires. When the nanowires rub together, electricity is generated. So, if this Kevlar/nanowire cloth was made into a shirt, it would effectively generate electricity as the wearer is going about their day.
Ever wanted to know how fire dancers’ could whip a flame through the air without it extinguishing? Kevlar woven with cotton does the trick, creating a flammable but strong base that can be reused time and time again.
In Kyudo, the Japanese form of archery, Kevlar is used as a synthetic alternative for bow strings, known as tsuru. Hemp fibers are the natural and original route for Kyudo practicers, but a Kevlar tsuru is much more durable and will save them the grief (and money!) of replacing tsurus so often.
Typically found in snare drums (like the kind used for a marching band), Kevlar is used as the surface on which a drummer will strike, creating a super tight and clean sound.
Though bullfighting raises a ton of qualms about animal rights and tradition, one advancement has been made on behalf of the horses. Previously unprotected and maimed during the bullfight, many horses now wear Kevlar petos, which are thick, comforter-esque pads that guard the horse’s body.
Whether it be protecting people with bulletproof vests or helping generate new forms of electricity, Stephanie Kwolek deserves a big thank you and celebration for all that she accomplished.
Images via acs.org, Georgia Tech, templeofpoi.com, kyodoproject.com, tianguoband.org, gonomad.com, sharkonline.org