Public Release: 

Wilmington researcher receives award for combating terrorism with chemistry

American Chemical Society

Richard W. Rees, Ph.D., formerly of DuPont in Wilmington, Del., will be recognized Sunday, August 18, by the world's largest scientific society for developing a versatile family of plastics used to make a glass interlayer that minimizes falling and flying glass during bomb explosions, automobile accidents, and storms.

Rees will be honored as a Hero of Chemistry at the American Chemical Society's 224th national meeting in Boston, along with chemists and chemical engineers from DSM N.V., 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."

Windows are typically the weakest portion of a building and are the first to break in an explosion. According to the Accountability Review Board report on the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and East Africa, most people were killed and injured by flying glass shards and other debris. In the Oklahoma City bombing, the leading cause of injury was flying glass.

In the 1960s, Rees invented a unique family of tough, clear plastics called Surlyn® ionomer resins. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, DuPont introduced a glass interlayer, called SentryGlas® Plus, made with these resins for use in laminated safety glass. During a bomb explosion, the shock wave may crack the glass itself, but the fragments stick to the plastic interlayer and the pane stays within its frame. Laminated glass also helps to deflect the explosion, absorbing the blast pressure and some of the energy generated by the blast.

The resins -- which adhere to aluminum foil and resist oil, grease and scratches -- are also used to make high-strength food packaging and coatings for paper, foils, and even sports equipment. Most golf ball covers are now made of Surlyn. For its 35th anniversary, Golf Digest named Rees one of the top 35 contributors to the game.

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.


Richard W. Rees, Ph.D., retired from DuPont in Wilmington, Del., in 1993. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from University College of Swansea in Wales, U.K. He resides in Wilmington, Del.

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