PBO is currently at the top of the performance pyramid when measured against other fibers, and it offers an option for out-and-out grand prix racers who want to save weight and increase the overall performance of their sails. It was initially developed by Dow Chemical, but because Dow is not in the business of making fibers, the technology was sold to the Japanese company Toyobo, which now produces the fibers under the trade name Zylon. PBO is a liquid crystal polymer that weight-for-weight has better strength and stretch characteristics than any other currently available fiber, including the aramids. Naturally gold, PBO's other attributes are reasonable flex, high cut and abrasion resistance, high chemical resistance, high tensile strength, and low creep. These benefits, however, come at a cost. PBO is extremely light-sensitive and degrades not only from sunlight, but from any kind of visible light. Unless the fiber is sandwiched between UV-enhanced films, it has a very short life. As a result, although PBO is an excellent fiber for making sails, its cost and short life expectancy often outweigh its good qualities. In fact, at the time of writing sailmakers were experiencing a backlash
from their customers because of the extremely short life of PBO, and fabric makers had stopped using PBO alone for sails. Instead, they were trying to minimize PBO's shortcomings by blending it with other yarns, creating fabrics from PBO and Kevlar 49, or PBO and high-modulus Twaron. The result is fabric that is lighter and stronger than one made from an aramid only, but one that lasts longer than a pure PBO sail.
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