Vectran is a manufactured fiber, spun from a liquid crystal polymer (LCP) created by Celanese Acetate LLC and now manufactured by Kuraray Co., Ltd. Chemically it is an aromatic polyester produced by the polycondensation of 4-hydroxybenzoic acid and 6-hydroxynaphthalene-2-carboxylic acid.
Vectran's golden fibers are noted for their thermal stability at high temperatures, high strength and modulus, low creep, and good chemical stability. They are moisture resistant and are generally stable in hostile environments. They are often used in combination with polyester as a coating around a Vectran core; polyurethane coating can improve abrasion resistance and act as a water barrier. Vectran has a melting point of 330 °C, with progressive strength loss from 220 °C. As it has high resistance to ultraviolet radiation, it can be used long term in outdoor environments if inspected regularly.
Although much stronger than Kevlar, Vectran still tends to experience tensile fractures when exposed to significant stress. The wispy, hair-like fibers tend to fray, to easily acquire dirt, and to readily entangle in velcro from which they must sometimes then be cut or (when possible) torn.
They are used as reinforcing (matrix) fibers for ropes, cables, sailcloth, and advanced composite materials, professional bike tires, and in electronics applications. Perhaps most notably, Vectran is used as one of the layers in the softgoods structure of NASA's Extravehicular Mobility Unit (spacesuit) designed and manufactured by ILC Dover and was the fabric used for all of the airbag landings on Mars: Mars Pathfinder in 1997 and on the twin Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity missions in 2004, also designed and manufactured by ILC Dover . The material is expected to be used again on NASA's 2011 Mars Science Laboratory in the bridle cables.
Vectran is a key component of a line of inflatable spacecraft developed by Bigelow Aerospace, not only on two stations which are in orbit but also the forthcoming BA-330 spacecraft which NASA has interest in testing for its life support, radiation shielding, thermal control and communications capabilities.
The United States Department of Homeland Security is sponsoring development of an inflatable plug made of Vectran to prevent flooding in the New York City Subway and other transportation tunnels, as it is strong but relatively inexpensive, and not edible for rats. Vectran fiber is also used in manufacturing badminton strings such as Yonex BG-85 and BG-80.
Kuraray Co., Ltd. began manufacturing Vectran in 1990. As of June 2007[update], Kuraray has owned 100% of the worldwide Vectran production since 2005 when they acquired the Vectran business from Celanese Advanced Materials Inc. (CAMI), based in South Carolina, U.S.
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- J. W. S. Hearle; Brenda Lomas; William D. Cooke; W. D. Cooke (1998), Atlas of Fibre Fracture and Damage to Textiles, Woodhead Publishing, p. 468, ISBN 978-1-85573-319-0
- Vectran Fiber -- Roll Goods and Custom Applications, Warwick Mills, "woven Vectran to strengthen fabric for use [on] NASA's Pathfinder mission to Mars", accessed 2010-03-04.
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