The beginnings of a discovery
The wonders of the DuPont PTFE
Principal property of PTFE
The Polytetrafluoroethylene PTFE is composed by a chain of carbon where carbon atomi s bounded with two fluorine atoms.
The discovery of the PTFE goes up to 6th Aprils 1938 thanks to the work of Roy UJ. Plunkett, employed by the DuPont laboratory of Jackson (USA).
It was a completely casual discovery: Plunkett was completing experiments on gaseous fluorinated refrigerants blong to the Freon family.
A test concerned a sample of tetrafluoroethylene, (TFE, whose chemical formula is CF2=CF2, that is to say that all hydrogen atoms of the ethylene are replaced by florine atoms) kept under pressure at low temperature.
Plunkett realized that the gaseous product gave rise to a spontaneous polymerization, transforming itself in a solid white mass with a wax appearance.
The first checking on the new polymer features, showed that they were in the presence of a material having really some singular property.
It wasn’t attacked by any chemical reagent, the surface was so slippery that no materials was able to adhere on it, it was abdolutely hydrophobic.
Furthermore, it didn’t degrade it was exposed to the light and had a very high melting point.
Also, contrary to the known thermoplastic resins, the polymer didn’t flow with temperature higher than the melting point.
Plunkett and his collaborators realized that new material could have considerable possible application.
In short time it was obviously that it could be transformed in the desired form by a technology conceptually similar to the manufacture of metallurgical dusts: that is processed by tools.
So the DuPont PTFE was made, commercialized since the forties and till today it is one of the polymers of main successful application.
It finds use even in realization of carpets and fabrics in order to make them resistant to stains.
Furthermore is exploited in applications for medicine, because rarely the human blood reject it, it could be used to produce prosthesis.