Tyvek is a nonwoven product consisting of spun bond olefin fiber. It was first discovered in 1955 by a researcher for the DuPont textile company, named Jim White. While working in an experimental lab, Jim noticed a type of white fluff coming out of a pipe. That fluff was a product known as polyethylene, which DuPont requested a patent for within a year of the discovery. After technologies improved during the next few years, in 1959 DuPont discovered that when the fluff was spun at high speeds it produced a durable fabric that was able to be cut with a blade. While the product Tyvek was used since 1959, DuPont did not trademark the actual brand until 1965, making it available for commercial purposes in April 1967. As of 1970, Tyvek had reached the mainstream construction industry on both a national and global scale, and is often used for the construction of houses due to its ability to keep out liquid, while allowing vapor through. In 1972, DuPont released Tyvek packaging for sterile instruments that were to be used by surgeons and doctors in the medical field.
Heat sealing can be used to melt Tyvek and cause it to bond to itself, but this form of bonding tends to create puckers in the otherwise flat material. Dielectric bonding can be effective in some circumstances, as is ultrasonic welding.
Though Tyvek superficially resembles paper (for example, it can be written and printed on), it is plastic, and it cannot be recycled with paper. Some Tyvek products are marked with the #2 resin-code for HDPE, and can be collected with plastic bottles as part of some municipal curbside recycling programs. DuPont runs a program in the United States where disposable clothing, coveralls, lab coats, medical packaging and other non-hazardous Tyvek disposable garments can be recycled, as well as providing a mail-in recycling program for envelopes.
Recently, plastic bag recycling has become more prevalent. According to the American Chemistry Council, these plastic film drop-off locations accept Tyvek.
Properties of Tyvek
According to DuPont's Web site, the fibers are 0.5–10 µm (compared to 75 µm for a human hair). The nondirectional fibers (plexifilaments) are first spun and then bonded together by heat and pressure, without binders.
Large sheets of Tyvek are frequently used as "housewrap," to provide an air barrier between the outer cladding of a structure and the frame, insulation, etc., allowing water vapor to pass yet restricting air infiltration.
Tyvek is used in archery to construct waterproof target faces, replacing paper.
Tyvek was used to cover and protect the Reaction Control System (RCS) thruster ports from water and debris while the shuttle stack was exposed on the launchpad during the latter years of the Space Shuttle program. The Tyvek covers were dislodged shortly after ignition and before the shuttle cleared the tower, posing no strike risk as the shuttle was travelling below 100 MPH.
Tom Sachs used Tyvek for the outer shell of the spacesuits used in his Space Program series of artworks.
In 1976, fashion house Fiorucci made an entire collection out of Tyvek.
Rock band Devo is known for wearing large, two-piece Tyvek suits with black elastic belts and 3-D glasses. In 1979, Devo appeared with Tyvek leisure suits and shirts made specifically for the band, with the band's own designs and images. In 2005 Dynomighty Design introduced stitchless Tyvek wallets which can be customized with whatever imagery the customer chooses.
The ultralight backpacking community has begun to use Tyvek for the construction of extremely light yet durable backpacks. In 2012, The Open Company released a foldable city map made of one of the stiffer variants of Tyvek.
British company Bo-borsa has produced a range of Tyvek tote bags, handbags, backpacks and light luggage
Increasingly, reused Tyvek material is being used by home crafters. Protective sleeves for Compact Discs and DVDs, tote bags, and origami wallets  also use Tyvek-containing materials.
Tyvek is also used as a durable fabric in shoes.
Tyvek coveralls are one-piece garments, usually white, commonly worn by mechanics, oil industry workers, painters, insulation installers, and laboratory and cleanroom workers where disposable, one-time use coverall is needed. They are also used for some light HAZMAT applications, such as asbestos and radiation work, but do not provide the protection of a full hazmat suit. Tychem is a sub-brand of Tyvek rated for a higher level of liquid protection, especially from chemicals. DuPont makes Tyvek clothing in different styles from laboratory coats and aprons to complete head-to-toe coveralls with hoods and booties. The latter was notably used by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force as emergency limited CBRN gear during the Fukushima nuclear incident.
Tyvek is extensively used for laboratory and medical packaging as the material withstands conditions such as Gamma irradiation or Ethylene Oxide gas which are used to sterilize equipment and surgical devices.
NSW Police, Australia uses Tyvek overalls to keep the integrity of alleged criminals' bodies at a crime scene, until they have had a chance to do body swabs.