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Teflon celebrates its 75th birthday

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Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its invention.

An ‘accidental invention’ of DuPont chemist Roy Plunkett, PTFE, later named and trademarked as DuPont Teflon, is a fluoropolymer that is now used in virtually every manufacturing and service industry as well as military and medical applications.

While researching new, safer chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants in 1938, Plunkett had tetrafluoroethylene gas stored in containers at dry-ice temperatures. When he opened a container, none of the gas came out. Instead, a white powder had formed inside, which was later found to be the polymer of tetrafluoroethylene, known today as Teflon.

Teflon has impacted most aspects of everyday life. Fluoropolymers are critical to new developments in the fields of medicine, environmental conservation, energy solutions, space exploration and civilian and military safety.

Virgin PTFE (Teflon) is a white, waxy industrial plastic and has almost universal chemical resistance. Key benefits include useful electrical and mechanical properties, physiologically inert nature, mouldable into solid rods, tubes and sheets for machining into finished components, excellent non-stick properties, superior UV resistance, lowest coefficient of friction of any solid (0.05-0.08), and a very high upper temperature limit of 260°C.

PTFE in its virgin form can be easily deformed by high loads and compressive forces. To minimise this, additives such as glass, bronze and carbon are added prior to moulding. PTFE can also be chemically etched on one surface to allow bonding to steel surfaces.

Allplastics Engineering  can supply PTFE in virgin, filled grade in sheet, rod and tube form, as well as a full machining service.

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