Making Aramids

The Tale of the Aramids

This is the tale of how aramids came to be,
Of the brave and mighty heroes of the chemical industry;
How the polyaramids resisted every solvent,
And all the tricks that any could invent
To make it was no feat, for that had been done
Long, long ago, had the synthetic victory been won.
But making this creation into something worthwhile
Lay beyond our grasp by many a mile.

Bound together by hydrogen bonds
And pi-stacking of adjacent rings,
The chains could scoff in vain delight
And a haughty song they'd sing:

"No solvent can us tear asunder
Nor will heat e'er split us apart!
We'll not dissolve, we'll never melt,
And nowhere is there a scientist so smart"

"As to force us to become useful stuff -
Processable, bending and ever so pliant;
We'll not bow to arrogant humankind
Nor serve it as our client!"

For many long moons their war song rang out
To defy all the hosts of DuPont de Nemours,
Whose honor was assailed by the aramids
And their terror they would incur.

Then from their number, one arose
Whose fame will long be told
To silence the haughty aramids
A brave and mighty hero bold -

The valiant Kwolek feared none
And the aramids soon trembled
When they looked up from their little glass beaker
At what the mighty Kwolek had assembled.

She picked for her solvent one aprotic and polar
With a stroke of pure genius and chemical aplomb
She chose one we call N-methyl pyrrolinidone
Then with a second ingredient, she had dropped the bomb

"I'll not make the aramids in a mere solvent alone"
But I'll spike my good solvent, with a little extra treat,"
This was her song as she toiled in her lab
With the calcium chloride, the aramid's sure defeat -

For the calcium chloride, the simple little salt
Latched on to the oxygens, those we call carbonyl,
And kept them from forming strong hydrogen bonds,
Splitting the aramids apart, to do Kwolek's will

She made the aramids in this fine synergistic brew;
And then from the same solution, a fiber she did spin -
Then let my solvent and co-solvent in time evaporate
And the aramids will be fibers, so delicate and thin.

Then were their strong H-bonds and scorn of melting heat
Turned to our favor, and used for our gain -
For that which made aramids defiant of human will
Made them surely as steadfast in easing our pain.

And so the brave Kwolek, Stephanie to her mom,
Stole Vulcan's fire, and gave us the Kevlar
Which stops bullets and saves bike tires
And she herself became a TV commercial star!

(Author unknown, with minor edits by P. Springsteen)

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