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It was one of those sterile packaging customers, in Chicago, who approached DuPont during the 1980s with the idea of using Tyvek as housewrap, recalls Matheson.
"We were so excited," says Matheson, "but we made him sign a contract not to sue us in case of catastrophe."
No catastrophe followed, and that remains one of Tyvek's primary uses today. But new uses continue to emerge.
"The coolest use is what we call 'orange mulch,' developed by the agriculture department in Japan," says Matheson. "They use Tyvek as ground cover under orange trees — it reflects light — for growing sweeter oranges."
For a look at some of the unusual ways that artists have reconfigured Tyvek, scan the unabashedly self-serving blog of Tyvek distributor Material Concepts, of Philadelphia. A January posting offers instructions for building a Tyvek kite.
Doug Kohn, who manages the company blog, says art students dream up the most unusual Tyvek uses.
"Someone is making shoes out of Tyvek," he says.