Herbert “Herb” Blades, retired DuPont scientist (Lavoisier Medal, 1991) instrumental in the commercialization of DuPont™ Kevlar® and Tyvek®, recently visited the DuPont Spruance site in Virginia. He toured both the Kevlar® and Tyvek® manufacturing areas and held interactive Q&A sessions with DuPont scientists and engineers.
Employees welcomed Herb to Spruance with posters and monitor messages, while also taking time to thank him for his significant accomplishments while working for DuPont.
Herb had been with DuPont only a year when he began his experiments with Tyvek®. His work on flash spinning and air-gap spinning was critical to the commercialization of Tyvek® and Kevlar®. In both cases, Herb turned a laboratory curiosity into a successful, scalable process.
When asked why he thought so many products were launched during that time in DuPont history, he gave credit to DuPont employees, including Hale Charch, who believed the time was right for DuPont to explore polymer science and created a fabled list of “The Top 10 fiber objectives.” He believes this led to the invention of such products as DuPont™ Kevlar®, Nomex® and Tyvek®, among others.
“DuPont is doing the same thing in the agriculture, food and biotech categories today that we did for fibers 40 years ago,” said Roger Siemionko, global technology leader working on Corporate Advanced Materials. “In material science, I believe our work on nanofibers and new technologies like Energain™ separators will lead to exciting future innovations.” Herb added that linking fundamental science with market needs is always a valid approach for new product development.
Herb was asked about the current processes for making Kevlar® and Tyvek®. He said, “I’m impressed with the elegance of the operation. Fabric used to be produced on a loom in inches per hour. Today Tyvek® is produced in miles per hour – that’s an impressive gadget!”