Kevlar was first developed in 1965 by Polish-American chemist Stephanie Kwolek while working for DuPont in the Experimental Station Laboratory. Kwolek was actually trying to create a new type of polymer for use in car tires, but instead, she stumbled upon a liquid crystal polymer that was not only super strong but also super lightweight. Talk about serendipity! Kwolek's discovery revolutionized the field of materials science and led to the creation of Kevlar, a material that is five times stronger than steel and able to withstand extreme heat and bullets.
DuPont: Stephanie Kwolek
Since its inception, Kevlar has been used in a wide range of applications, from bulletproof vests and helmet liners for military and law enforcement to racing sails and cut-resistant gloves for the recreational and industrial sectors. In fact, it's hard to find an industry that hasn't been touched by Kevlar in some way. The material is even used in airplanes to reinforce structural components and in sporting goods to make lightweight and durable products.
But the future of Kevlar is looking even brighter. Scientists are currently working on using Kevlar to create supercapacitors, which could potentially revolutionize the way we store and use energy. Imagine charging your phone in seconds or driving an electric car for hundreds of miles on a single charge. The possibilities are endless.
DuPont: Kevlar® fibers; Loom weaving Kevlar fabric in a carbon fiber factory. Monty Rakusen / Getty Images
Kevlar has been recognized as one of the most important inventions of the 20th century by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. So the next time you see a bulletproof vest or a pair of Cut-Resistant gloves, take a moment to think about the woman who made it all possible: Stephanie Kwolek.
Forbes: Stephanie Kwolek