Kevlar Patents

Kevlar patents are some of the most noteworthy patents in history. The person behind the invention of Kevlar is Stephanie Kwolek, an expert in chemical compounds and an employee for the DuPont Company. Specifically, Kevlar is 5 times stronger than steel. It was patented in 1966, and is a product that is both lightweight and does not rust or corrode.

Who is Stephanie Kwolek?

  • Kwolek was born in 1923 in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.
  • Kwolek indicated that her interest in science was due to her father, who died when she was ten years old. He spent a significant amount of his time exploring the natural world.
  • Kwolek graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1946. Immediately thereafter, she began working as a chemist at the DuPont Company. During her 40-year tenure there, she obtained 28 patents.
  • In 1995, Kwolak was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her invention of Kevlar. She was also awarded the Lavoisier Medal for her achievements.
  • She received other achievements during her lifetime, including the National Medal of Technology and an M.I.T. Lifetime Achievement Award.  

How Was Kevlar Created?

Kwolek’s goal was not actually to create a material like Kevlar, but rather to create a fiber that was strong enough to reinforce radial tires. She and her colleagues encountered a problem with the polymers that they worked with, as the molecules were very difficult to dissolve. Therefore, the polymer was so strong that it held up against even more than just tires.

The solution itself wasn’t that thick or clear, but rather thin and cloudy-like in color. Believe it or not, the solution arranged itself into bundles that were parallel to one another. Since the solution was so thin, it was able to force itself into tiny holes. This led to a very strong and tight fit within the products that Kwolek wanted to use it in.

Products That Use Kevlar

Body armor is the most common use for Kevlar. When a bullet hits the body armor, it catches it in the web of fibers used to make up the armor. The fibers absorb the bullet causing it to deform before it can hit the person’s body. There are several layers of material, so if the bullet penetrates the top layer, eventually it will be forced to stop before hitting the body. To date, no vest exists that has only one layer, as multiple layers are still required in order to successfully stop the bullet from penetrating the body. For bullets that come from larger firearms, such as rifles, the armor is constructed of more rigid materials, such as ceramic or metal. This rigid body armor is generally not used by police officers, as Kevlar bulletproof vests are used. The more rigid armor is instead used by uniformed patrol officers or in tactical situations.

Other common products that have patents that use Kevlar include:

  • U.S. ballistic vests and military helmets. These items also utilize flame resistant properties and high heat resistance.
  • Fiber-optic cables, which are used by designers and engineers in building materials.
  • Friction items and gaskets. Kevlar can be converted into pulp. It provides great chemical and wear resistance, along with heat resistance.
  • Synthesis and use of aramid nanofibers
  • Protective laminate. This laminate is formed by using 9 layers of Kevlar fabric that are then bonded together by internal layers of Surlyn.
  • Skis
  • Brake Linings
  • Boats
  • Firefighter Boots
  • Armored cars
  • Building materials

It has even been used to construct bombproof items and hurricane-safe rooms. Overall, Kevlar is used in more than 200 applications. Although the patent is no longer current (patents generally last for 20 years and cannot be renewed), DuPont makes hundreds of millions of dollars on the trademarked Kevlar. When any one business or person uses Kevlar in their product, they must pay licensing fees in order to advertise that the product itself uses Kevlar.

If you need help with learning more about Kevlar patents, or want to patent an item that uses Kevlar, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.