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Zylon, the rigid material which saved Alonso's life

The interior of Alonso's McLaren was coated with a Zylon veneer, a synthetic material considered to be the most durable invented by man.


The name Zylon probably won't conjure up too many images for most people and even fewer will have heard it's chemical compound name: p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole; but for Fernando Alonso, the synthetic material saved his life this weekend. Zylon is the trademark name for a highly-resilient synthetic polymer produced by Japanese company,Toyobo. The material has been used in Formula 1 since 2007. Car interiors are coated with a Zylon veener which protects drivers in the event of crashes. In terms of pressure, Zylon is 60% more resilient than another synthetic polymer Kevlar which is frequently used in car tyres and helmets and has 10 times the tensile strength of steel.

A 1mm thread of Zylon can support a 450 kg weight, which is why it is so frequently used in car parts - particularly in the cockpit where drivers are exposed should an accident occur; and following the incident involving Ruben Barrichello's Brawn at the Hungarian GP in 2009 when a spring came loose from the Brazilian's car and impacted with Felipe Massa's helmet, Zylon has also been used in helmet visors.

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Alonso, who emerged from his car unscathed following a 310km/h collision with a crash barrier at Albert Park circuit on Sunday, is one of the many F1 drivers who will be eternally grateful for its invention.


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