Kevlar technology

Designed to defeat today's threats


     As the need for increased safety and security increases in the United States and throughout the world, DuPont continues to develop new technologies and additional Kevlar fiber capacity to address growing needs.

     Used in ballistic applications for more than 35 years, Kevlar is a name that has become synonymous with keeping law enforcement officers safe on the job. Soft body armor made with Kevlar works by catching a bullet in a multilayer web of woven fabrics. The engaged fibers absorb the energy of the impact and disperse it to other fibers in the fabric weave. It's the ability to combine this high strength with light weight that has made the organic fiber (in the aramid family) popular with law enforcement.

     DuPont's latest generation of woven technology, Kevlar XP (which stands for exceptional performance), offers even more bullet-stopping power, while the relatively new Kevlar Correctional addresses the needs of officers who work in correctional institutions and demand anti-spike protection. Both technologies were designed to be lightweight, flexible enough to be concealed under a uniform, and with officer comfort in mind.

     And that's important, because as Mark McGonagle, global marketing manager for DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems, reminds, the only vest that never works is the one that's never worn.

Kevlar XP

     Announced this summer, Kevlar XP is initially being made for body armor, but will be used in more ballistic applications and other products in the future. Kevlar XP provides exceptional performance with its ability to consistently stop bullets in just the first three out of 11 layers against the .44 Mag bullet of NIJ Level IIIA, according to tests by DuPont and an independent third-party. The remaining eight layers of Kevlar XP absorb bullet energy, so the vest wearer experiences less trauma, or backface deformation.

     "Backface deformation can have a significant impact on how quickly a police officer can react to the threat he faces," McGonagle says. "If an officer is able to get back up again more quickly, he's more able to defend himself from further attack. Not to mention, less trauma is less painful."

     Kevlar XP typically provides a 15 percent or more reduction in backface deformation. At the same time, it is up to 10 percent lighter than other commercially available technologies designed to defeat a .44 Magnum bullet, the most challenging National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level IIIA threat.

     In addition, Kevlar XP provides superior layer-to-layer abrasion resistance compared to other ballistic material used in the market today, McGonagle says.

     Finally, in keeping with more rigorous NIJ testing, after exposure to the conditions of heat, humidity and mechanical wear, Kevlar XP is designed to maintain its performance.

     Body armor manufacturers are currently evaluating Kevlar XP. Officers could see Kevlar XP in commercial vests by December.

Concealable anti-spike protection

     Corrections officers require a solution that differs from traditional body armor like Kevlar XP because they typically face different threats on the job than police officers walking the beat.

     The recent death of Federal Correctional Officer Jose Rivera, 22, publicized by the American Federation of Government Employees, drew national attention to the need for correctional officers to wear vests. A Navy veteran, Rivera was killed on June 20 by inmates with handmade shanks at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater, California.

     Shanks and knives require different protection technologies than bullets. For example, the tip of a spike is about 100 microns. It's very, very small compared to a deformed bullet that's 1/4 inch. Looking at the measurable ability of a spike to impact a target divided by the contact area at the tip will show that a spike has about 100 more joules per square centimeter than a bullet, says Minshon Chiou, research fellow for DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems. He gives an example of a man able to lie on 1,000 nails without injury but unable to lie on one nail without fearing serious injury or death. When looking only at the energy concentration at the tip, one nail is more difficult to stop than a bullet.

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