What exactly is Nomex?

A guide to the number one fibre for protective clothing around the world

English: chemical structure of Nomex polymer. ...

English: chemical structure of Nomex polymer. Polski: Struktura chemiczna polimeru Nomex (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is the first in a series of more in-depth articles examining the major issues surrounding protective clothing. This guide is for anyone that’s interested in the applications of Nomex, we will look at how it works, its uses and its applications.

How it works

DuPont, the company that produces Nomex continually strives to improve the properties of the fibre, using their advanced testing facilities they put the garments they produce under rigorous scrutiny to ensure continued performance.

DuPont Nomex wide bannerThe Nomex fibre is related to nylon, it is an aramid polymer (a class of heat-resistant fibres) that has a chemically added aromatic backbone.  This aromatic backbone has an artificially created chemical formula that adds rigidity and durability to the fibre.  This combination of unique elements creates a fibre that has excellent thermal, chemical and radiation resistance and is perfect for high-risk environments.

Nomex can be produced as a fibre or a sheet, further increasing its applications. The sheet form can be made thin enough that it can be used as electrical insulation in wires, while the fibre can be woven into an infinite number of shapes.

Uses and Applications

Each of Nomex’s qualities has multiple applications in multiple industries. The fiber’s fireproof properties have made it a staple for industries whose employees come in contact with sources of high heat. The fiber can be woven into any shape and is used to make hoods, suits, gloves, helmet linings and even underwear. Firefighters, Racecar drivers and industrial workers wear Nomex to protect them from the intense heat of flash fires.

Nomex is used in a wide range of industries, both civilian and military. Many militaries around the world use Nomex to protect their troops. Pilots and aircrews wear flight suits made with over 92% Nomex, protecting them in case of cockpit fires while tank drivers use Nomex hoods to protect them against extreme heat and cold.

Nomex is so versatile and so effective the U.S. space program use it to great effect in the extreme conditions of outer space. It has been used to provide protection for astronauts from extreme pressures and temperatures, from the high heat of a fire to the freezing cold of space; they can even survive while fully immersed in water.

Goretex Nomex and a spaceman

Nomex can be produced as a thin sheet; this ‘paper’ is saturated with phelonic resin. The honeycomb structure of the Nomex, when filled with this resin can be used in circuit boards and transformer cores to provide heat protection and electrical insulation.  This paper form is highly adaptable and is used extensively in aircraft production where protection from extreme temperatures is of the utmost importance.

Nomex can also be used for its acoustic qualities, the honeycomb structure reflects high and mid frequency sound and provides reverberation while letting low-frequency sound pass through. This is perfect for maximising the acoustic qualities of concert halls and has been used for the first time, to great effect in New York’s EMPAC concert hall.

These are just a few examples of the more acute applications of Nomex. Nomex consistently performs in the most extreme environments, both on and off the planet. Its versatility means it can be used in a multitude of industries and is perfect for any environment where you come into contact with high heat.

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