DuPont is hoping for a 40% boost in the global production capacity of its high strength Kevlar fibres, best known for its use in ballistic and stab-resistant body armour, after opening a new $500m facility in South Carolina.

The Cooper River Kevlar plant near Charleston will begin commercial supply by the end of the year, and will initially increase global Kevlar production by 25%. This is expected to grow by 40% over the next two years.

"As the global population grows, there will be even more critical need for protection materials to keep people safe and to protect the environment, structures and critical processes," said Thomas Powell, president, DuPont Protection Technologies.

The Cooper River Kevlar plant will initially produce Kevlar AP, Kevlar KM2 Plus and Kevlar XP for ballistics, other personal protective equipment, aerospace, tyres, fibre optic cables, oil and gas and automotive applications.

New applications include added protection and performance in lightweight helmets and tactical plates, and body armour that can help stop bullets within the first three layers of a vest designed with a total of 11 layers.

Along with a recent $50m expansion at DuPont's Spruance plant in Richmond, Virginia, Cooper River represents the largest single investment in Kevlar and the largest capacity increase since the fibre was introduced in 1965.

As well as its plants at Richmond and Cooper River, DuPont also manufactures Kevlar in Maydown, Northern Ireland and at a DuPont joint venture, DuPont-Toray Company in Tokai, Japan.