Public Release: 

Dutch researchers receive award for combating terrorism with chemistry

American Chemical Society

Koos Mencke, René Steeman and Jean Beugels of DSM N.V. in Heerlen, Netherlands, will be recognized Sunday, August 18, by the world's largest scientific society for developing better processes and new applications for a super-strong fiber used in lightweight personal and vehicle armor.

The DSM team will be honored as Heroes of Chemistry at the American Chemical Society's 224th national meeting in Boston, along with chemists and chemical engineers from DuPont and Solutia Inc. Retired U.S. Air Force General Brent Scowcroft will speak at the event about what it means to be a hero in today's changing world.

"These chemical innovators have significantly contributed to the protection and security of our world with commercial technologies that detect, prevent, alleviate or remediate threats to our health and safety," said Eli Pearce, president of the American Chemical Society. "The chemical advances made by these men and women serve as testimonials to the valuable role chemists and chemical engineers play in improving our lives. It is with pride that the Society recognizes them as Heroes of Chemistry."

Personal and vehicle armor must provide maximum protection at minimal weight. Traditionally, lightweight armor was modeled on woven fabrics, but in the late 1980s, DSM learned that material made from its super-strong polyethylene fiber, called Dyneema®, is better at stopping bullets when the fibers are laid in one direction and each layer of fibers is stacked in an opposite direction. The fibers and layers are bonded together with resins.

Protective gear -- including armored cockpit doors, lightweight vehicle armor panels, bullet-resistant vests and military helmets -- made with Dyneema fibers can stop, deform and dissipate energy from high-velocity bullets. The material also resists abrasion and withstands moisture, UV radiation and many chemicals. Dyneema is the world's strongest fiber and is fifteen times stronger than steel on a weight-for-weight basis, DSM claims.

According to DSM, Dyneema fibers provide the best lightweight protection against the Kalashnikov, an East European military rifle widely used by terrorists. The French army used helmets made with Dyneema-woven fabric during its peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Dyneema fiber is also used in safety gloves, medical products, mooring and towing ropes, and sports equipment, including fish tackle lines, sails, yachting ropes, kite lines, canoes and fencing suits.

The Heroes of Chemistry program, started in 1996, honors industrial chemists and chemical engineers who create commercially successful products that improve the quality of life. The theme of the awards changes annually; this year, the program recognizes technologies that protect and secure our world.


Jean Beugels is an application engineer, vehicle armoring, at DSM High Performance Fibers in Heerlen, Netherlands. He received a bachelor's degree in analytical chemistry from ZLS Sittard, Netherlands, in 1981 and a bachelor's degree in chemical technology from HTS Heerlen, Netherlands, in 1988. He resides in Landgraaf, Netherlands.

Koos Mencke is the technology manager at DSM High Performance Fibers in Heerlen, Netherlands. He received a master's degree in chemical engineering from Groningen University, Netherlands, in 1985. He resides in Maastricht, Netherlands.

René Steeman is the plant development manager at DSM High Performance Fibers in Heerlen, Netherlands. He received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from HTS Heerlen, Netherlands, in 1980 and a master's degree in process engineering from the Technical University Twente, Netherlands, in 1989. He resides in Elsloo, Netherlands.

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