Who knew that each time you put on your Nomex® fire fighter turnout gear you might be wearing a little bit of British history? Whilst Nomex®, the fibre that provides the heat and flame protection in turnout gear, is manufactured and distributed the world over, its roots are in bonnie Scotland.
Nomex® fibres were first explored in the 1950’s by Scottish developer Dr Wilfred Sweeny, who won a Lavoisier Medal, the highest award for scientific and technical achievement from DuPont, in 2002 for his work with the fibre. Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1926, he developed a keen interest in science and attended Glasgow University where he earned his Bachelor’s degree and Ph.D in Chemistry.
This innovative fibre protects wearers from heat and flames by using three crucial mechanisms. The fibre absorbs heat, keeping it away from the wearer. The fibre also swells and thickens when exposed to heat, increasing the protective barrier between the heat source and the skin. After the fibre has completely cooled down and is taken out of the heat, the garment may crack or break open, showing that the fibre has done its job and has absorbed the heat and has carbonised, providing extra seconds of protection without impairing mobility. A garment made with Nomex® is not designed to stay intact or look pretty after an incident. It is designed to protect people!
Today, Nomex® is worn by more than three million firefighters around the world who are protected by turnout gear, stationwear and accessories made from Nomex®. Due to its specific combination of flame protection, durability and breathability, Nomex® is also used in apparel worn by military pilots and combat vehicle crew; car racing drivers, pit crew members and track officials; as well as industrial workers at risk from flash fire and electric arc hazards.
Nomex® is a truly amazing invention that the British are proud to call their own. Never one to rest on its laurels, garments made with Nomex® fibre continue to develop and improve day by day.