While traveling recently, I happened to pass a construction site along my local highway. Glancing over I read “Tyvek®” emblazoned across the white paper covering its walls, which struck me as odd because the day before I was looking at some of the Tyvek® lab coats that we carry at All-Spec. I never realized that the same material that can be used for protective lab clothing could be used for construction work, so I thought I would look into what makes this material so versatile.
Tyvek® is a trademark of Dupont™, the company that created and currently manufactures it. They produce a wide array of products from this material, from the aforementioned lab coats and building wrap to envelopes and vehicle covers.
Tyvek® is produced by bonding Olefin into a paper or fabric-like product. Olefin is made from polyethylene and when bonded into Tyvek® it becomes very strong. Depending on the manufacturing process, Tyvek® can be hard and paper-like or soft and fabric-like, which is one of the reasons it is used in so many places. All Tyvek® is durable and lightweight, making it extremely reliable.
Probably the most important quality of Tyvek® is that it resists both water and air, but allows moisture vapor to move through it. This is why it is used for building wrap, as it keeps water from hurting the structure and insulates against wind while allowing vapors to pass through. Similarly, it works well for lab coats as it protects the wearer from spills, but it is still a comfortable and breathable material. Tyvek® can also be used as packaging for desiccants, providing a tough, tear resistant outer coating that allows vapors to pass through and be absorbed.
Tyvek® shares many qualities with paper and fabric, but it is actually considered a plastic. Because of this, it can be recycled, though it is not as simple as dropping it into a recycling bin and sending it on its way. To make things as easy as possible, DuPont™ and Waste Management have a recycling program where you can purchase kits, allowing you to mail your used Tyvek® in to be recycled.
For more technical details you can check out Dupont’s website on Tyvek®. Are there any materials that you see in your products that you want to know more about? Let us know in the comments and we will look into any questions you have!