Teflon is a registered trademark of Du Pont.
It is also known as polytetrafluoroethene (PTFE) and it is a polymer of TFE. It can be applied in many different ways. It is a covalently bonded compound with an enormous relative molecular mass and its macromolecules are made up of just two chemical elements, carbon and fluorine, bonded together. The properties of Teflon are centred around the fact that it is greatly hydrophobic. Fluorine’s relatively high electronegativity (it is the most electronegative of the elements) means that it does not produce dispersion forces when in contact with water. Teflon also has a particularly low friction coefficient for a solid.
It is perhaps best known for its non-stick applications for saucepans and other cookery items. Because of the high bond strength of the carbon-fluorine single bonds, Teflon demonstrates extraordinary unreactivity. Because of this, it is used to make pipes and containers where the reaction with the chemicals within it, is possible and undesirable. Wear and tear can be reduced by coating moving parts with Teflon, and it can be used as a surface lubricant because of this.
Teflon was developed by an act of serendipity by Roy Plunkett in 1938. When working for the Kinetic Chemical Company, he was trying to synthesise a new haloalkane compound for a refrigeration project. The pressure in a gas flow line had dropped to an unexpected level. There was a disparity between the bottle’s mass and the pressure applied to it. The bottle was taken apart in order to investigate what had happened to it. A white, slippery material was found inside which seemed to have some new properties.
Chemical analysis revealed that this new substance was a polymer of tetrafluoroethene. It is believed that the presence of iron in the interior of the container catalysed the polymerisation at the elevated pressure. Teflon was used for containing the uranium hexafluoride, during the Manhattan Project, in order to enrich uranium. The Kinetic Chemical Company was founded by Du Pont and GM and by the late nineteen-forties, about 900 tonnes of Teflon was being produced per year.
The first non-stick pan using Teflon as a non-stick agent was invented in 1954 by Marc Gregoire. The notable physical and chemical properties of Teflon degenerate at temperatures above 260 degrees Celsius, though this is not an issue for most of its applications.
Teflon can be used in most cases where moving parts come into contact with one another and ball bearings and gear parts can be made from it. Armour-piercing bullets can be coated with Teflon so that the rifle it is fired from does not wear away as quickly. Magnetic stirrers in laboratories can be coated with Teflon since glass would dissolve if a more corrosive substance, such as sodium hydroxide or hydrofluoric acid, were used. A favourite application of mine for Teflon is for preventing insects climbing up vertical surfaces, since they cannot adhere to it.
You may be interested in reading: