Most people are unfamiliar with the terms Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE. But when you bring up the name Teflon you start seeing a look of understanding on their faces. Polytetrafluoroethylene is the technical and chemical name of this famous material while Teflon is its brand name. Teflon is manufactured by DuPont and it was discovered in the late 1930s by Dr. Roy Plunkett who worked for DuPont. Teflon is highly versatile and is used in a wide range of industries that include the food and drink industry, aerospace, telecoms, and pharmaceuticals.
Main Properties of Teflon
If you were a researcher hoping to come up with a material that’s chemically resistant, highly flexible, thermally and electrically resistant, and non-sticky you would be hoping to invent a material that’s nearly as good as Teflon in all these areas.
Polytetrafluoroethylene melting point is approximately 327C. What’s more, pure PTFE is thermally stable enough to withstand temperatures of between -200 to 200 degrees Celsius without showing any signs of degrading. Pure Teflon is also extremely insoluble in most chemicals and solvents making it almost chemically inert.
Another crucial property of PTFE is its impressive flexural strength, particularly in low temperatures. It has a low friction coefficient, high resistance to water due to fluorine’s considerable electronegativity and dielectric strength. Teflon’s density stands at around 2200 kg/m3. The only factor that should be taken into consideration while using Polytetrafluoroethylene is its low resistance to high energy radiation levels which cause PTFE molecules to break down.
Advantages of Using Teflon
Cookware Teflon is one of the most used materials in the manufacture of cooking utensils and products. PTFE creates a slippery surface making it a perfect fit for cooking materials. Numerous brands sell lines of cookware that are glazed with Teflon to prevent food from sticking to the pans and pots. This greatly reduces the need for cooking oil since these pans and pots are already non-sticky.
The most defining advantage of Teflon is its flexibility and wide array of applications in different industries. Teflon has immense benefits in engineering and manufacturing, it’s not just used in making liners or tubes for handling strong and corrosive chemicals but its also used as a coating material for screws and bearings thus increasing their lifetime. PTFE achieves this since a Teflon coated screw will be impervious to rust, this is due to the Polytetrafluoroethylene
ability to repel water as mentioned above. The screw will also be easy to drive in due to the reduced friction offered by PTFE coating.
All these benefits result in less wear and tear on both the screw and surface and the finish is more secure and long-lasting. This, in the long run, means companies and individuals that use Teflon coated products achieve high degrees of high performance and efficiency. Furthermore, the need to repetitively look for replacement parts is reduced significantly hence saving time and money needed to buy and fit the replacements.
The most known use of Teflon in the car industry is the manufacture of windshield wiper blades. The blades are coated with Teflon resulting in a smooth surface that enables them to glide smoothly across your windscreen during a rainy day. Hair Styling Tools Curling irons and hair straighteners emit high temperatures when used. As a result, they are layered with PTFE to remain functional after use.
Fabric and Carpet protection
For those who do not like cleaning their fabrics repetitively, there are fabrics out there that are layered with Polytetrafluoroethylene making it for stains to stick on them.
The smooth surfaces that do not crack are often achieved through the use of Teflon.
Interesting Uses of Teflon
You might not know it but Teflon also has medical uses. It is used as a glaze on catheters to prevent infections and bacteria. It’s also used as a graft material during surgeries.
Lastly, PTFE is used to stop meddling insects from climbing your walls. Since Teflon is naturally non-stick even geckos cannot grip to it.
Cons of Using Teflon
In spite of its multilayered coating, Teflon can be scratched off very easily if one uses a sharp plastic or metal utensil against it. Wooden spoons and spatula are instead recommended to preserve the surface and hinder it from been destroyed. Also when scratched off, flakes of Teflon can be ingested with the meal, however, there is no need to worry since Teflon is approved by the FDA which means ingesting it in minimal amounts doesn’t have any dire consequences.
When cookware layered with PTFE is preheated or overheated without any food in its toxic fumes are released. These toxic fumes cause nausea in humans and can be deadly to birds that are in close proximity. Preheating an empty Teflon pan or pot is therefore not recommended and it is best to keep the temperatures under control to prevent toxic emissions.
Lastly, due to Teflon’s low elasticity, it has a propensity to lose shape slowly over time. To counter this, Belleville washers are used.
Due to the vast amount of uses we have for Teflon now, it is hard to imagine where the world would be right now without its invention. We probably would not be able to do much of what we are able to do right now. We use Teflon almost daily and as a result, we should all express thanks to the memory of Dr. Plunkett who came up with this amazing invention. It is very likely when he first developed Polytetrafluoroethylene he did not have an idea of how important it would be in our day to day lives.