1903 Experimental Station
DuPont established the Experimental Station in 1903 near Wilmington, Del., to conduct and promote scientific research as a major platform for industrial growth. The facility was DuPont's first general scientific laboratory and the site of many of the company's most spectacular research triumphs, including neoprene, nylon and Lycra.
Under their first director, chemist Francis I. du Pont, Experimental Station scientists conducted research into nitrocellulose chemistry, particularly in the fields of glycerin synthesis and atmospheric nitrogen recovery. The laboratory became more deeply involved in diversified chemical research when chemist Fin Sparre became its director in 1911, resulting in improvements in such products as the artificial leather Fabrikoid and celluloid films. During World War I, researchers at the Experimental Station assisted their colleagues at other DuPont labs like Jackson Laboratory and Eastern Laboratory in exploring fundamental aspects of organic chemistry that proved crucial to the company's smokeless powder and dyestuffs businesses.
The Experimental Station became center stage for a golden age of scientific discovery after 1927, when Chemical Department Director Charles M. A. Stine persuaded the Executive Committee to fund an academic-style, fundamental research program there, free from any immediate commercial considerations. Stine's program quickly achieved some spectacular results. Researchers working on polymer synthesis under the brilliant organic chemist Wallace H. Carothers soon invented the synthetic rubber neoprene, the cold-drawn fiber technique, and nylon.
These discoveries helped create DuPont's successful synthetic textile fibers and polychemicals businesses. In the late 1940s, DuPont President Crawford H. Greenewalt and Chemical Department Director Elmer K. Bolton oversaw a $30 million expansion project at the Experimental Station to tie the company's post-World War II growth even more closely to long-range fundamental research. Opening in May 1951, the newly expanded facility united several of DuPont's most important industrial laboratories into a centralized research and development complex that ultimately led the company into new fields such as pharmaceuticals and biochemicals in the 1960s and 1970s. DuPont expanded the Experimental Station again in 1984 to include the new Greenewalt Laboratory, reflecting the company's more recent interest in biological and ecological research. Today, the Experimental Station remains DuPont's primary research and development center as well as one of the largest, most scientifically diverse industrial laboratories in the world.