Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), more commonly known as Teflon, is a polymer. Polymer is a substance which contains many structural units that are joined the same type of linkage.(1) Hence, the molecular structure of polytetrafluoroethylene is based on a chain of carbon atoms. However, unlike some other fluoropolymers, in Teflon the chain is completely surrounded by fluorine atoms.(2) There is a very strong bond between fluorine atoms and the carbon as the fluorine atoms act as a protective shell to the carbon chain. This configuration enables Teflon to have unique properties. In addition to its extreme slipperiness, it is inert to almost every known chemical. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) was discovered in 1938 by Dr. Roy Plunkett. He was a chemist for DuPont. Dr. Plunkett was trying to develop new products for cooling purposes. He then placed some perfluorethylene in a storage container and it polymerized and created a white wax-like coating which was Teflon. DuPont patented it in 1941, and registered the Teflon trademark in 1944.(2)
Manufacture and properties of PTFE
PTFE is polymerized from the chemical compound tetrafluoroethylene with the abbreviation TFE. The materials used in the manufacturing of PTFE are as follows. TFE is synthesized from fluorspar, hydrofluoric acid, and chloroform.(3) These three elements are combined under a high heat. This process is known as pyrolosis.(3) TFE is a colorless, odorless, nontoxic gas which is, however, extremely flammable.(4) Therefore, it is stored as a liquid at low temperature and pressure. This is done to facilitate the transportation of the highly flammable gas. It is very common to see PTFE manufacturers also manufacture TFE. The polymerization process uses a very small amount of other chemicals as initiators. Various initiators can be used, including ammonium persulfate or disuccinic acid peroxide. The other essential ingredient of the polymerization process is water. Polymers in the natural...
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