Skydiving Parachutes—What Are They Made Of?
There can be no skydiving without the skydiving parachutes. First and foremost a student of skydiving must know every detail of the skydiving parachutes before proceeding to learn the "how to" of this extreme sport. Skydiving parachutes are the indispensable part of this adventure sport. You can have all the rest of the gear, gadgets in place but without a skydiving parachute there is no sport.
Parachute is usually used to slow down the movement of a flying object and is made of special fabric that can withstand strong wind resistance. The Drogue type parachutes are used in offloading very heavy objects like vehicles. Obviously they are used in rare and special occasions like lowering armored personnel carriers during wars. A Normandy type landing today could be with APCs being "flown" in by parachutes!
The initial commercial parachutes were made from silk fabric. Advanced technology has also improved the materials that go into the making of a parachute. Nylon, a much stronger material, replaced silk as the raw material for parachute manufacturing during the World War II. This has improved the performance and the safety of the military personnel during the war.
Skydiving parachutes are now made of low-stretch, high resistance fabrics. They are tested thoroughly to ensure strength and durability. Majority of the materials used in parachute manufacture are synthetic-based with varying components.
Dacron, the commercial name for polyethylene terephthalate is made from thermoplastic polymers is used in the manufacture of synthetic fibers. Also known as PET when used in beverage and food containers this material is used in sails of boats.
The synthetic-based Spectra (also known as Dyneema) is made of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene - UHMWPE. This fabric is fifteen times stronger than steel and used in manufacture of bulletproof vests. It is also used for strings in bows, fishing threads, sails and material used for mountain climbing. This shows the diverse applications of the material and one can be confident while using a skydiving parachute made of such material.
Du Pont owns the brand Kevlar, which is a fabric made of material called aramid. This is known for its fire resistant property and its tensile strength. Kevlar has been in manufacture from the 1970s and has been used in military operations for making bullet proof clothing.
Liquid crystal polymer is used in the manufacture of Vectran, a fabric that is high temperature resistant and also moisture resistant. It is used both for protection from Ultra Violet radiation as well as from water seepage. It is considered to be excellent for the production of parachutes due to its inherent characteristics.
We can expect to see many more improvements in the material used to manufacture parachutes. The modern day technology promises us this and more.