Polytetrafluoroethylene

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327 °C

In chemistry, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that finds numerous applications. PTFE is most well known by the DuPont brand name Teflon.

PTFE is a fluorocarbon solid, as it is a high-molecular-weight compound consisting wholly of carbon and fluorine. PTFE is hydrophobic: neither water and water-containing substances are wet by PTFE, as fluorocarbons demonstrate mitigated London dispersion forces due to the high electronegativity of fluorine. PTFE has one of the lowest coefficients of friction against any solid.

PTFE is used as a non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. It is very non-reactive, partly because of the strength of carbon–fluorine bonds, and so it is often used in containers and pipework for reactive and corrosive chemicals. Where used as a lubricant, PTFE reduces friction, wear, and energy consumption of machinery.

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History

PTFE was accidentally invented by Roy Plunkett of Kinetic Chemicals in New Jersey in 1938. While Plunkett was attempting to make a new CFC refrigerant, the perfluorethylene polymerized in its pressurized storage container, with the iron from the inside of the container acting as a catalyst. Kinetic Chemicals patented it in 1941[1] and registered the Teflon trademark in 1945.[2][3]

An early advanced use was in the Manhattan Project as a material to coat valves and seals in the pipes holding highly reactive uranium hexafluoride at the vast K-25 uranium enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.[4]

DuPont, which founded Kinetic Chemicals in partnership with General Motors, was producing over two million pounds (900 tons) of Teflon per year in Parkersburg, West Virginia, by 1948.[5]

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