F1

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.

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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.

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.