Scientists Say: Kevlar

This super-strong plastic is in many household objects

Kevlar helmets

These helmets are made with 19 layers of Kevlar, a super-strong plastic that is lighter — and far tougher —than steel.

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Kevlar (noun, “KEV-lahr”)

This is a super-strong plastic fiber developed by the DuPont company in the 1960s. Originally used for racing tires, it is stronger than steel but much lighter. That has made it especially useful for body armor. The fiber is a polymer —a long chain of repeating groups of atoms. Because it can be formed into many shapes, Kevlar has found use in rope, the heads of drums and even in frying pans.

In a sentence

Kevlar is strong, but spider silk is two times stronger.

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Power Words

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Kevlar    A super-strong plastic fiber developed by DuPont in the 1960s and initially sold in the early 1970s. It’s stronger than steel, but weighs much less, and won’t melt.

plastic  Any of a series of materials that are easily deformable; or synthetic materials that have been made from polymers (long strings of some building-block molecule) that tend to be lightweight, inexpensive and resistant to degradation.

polymer  Substances whose molecules are made of long chains of repeating groups of atoms. Manufactured polymers include nylon, polyvinyl chloride (better known as PVC) and many types of plastics. Natural polymers include rubber, silk and cellulose (found in plants and used to make paper, for example).

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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