Teflon is the brand name of a polymer compound discovered by Roy J. Plunkett (1910-1994) of DuPont in 1938 and introduced as a commercial product in 1946.
Teflon is polytetrafluoroethene (PTFE).
F F | | R - C - C - R | | F F
Teflon is also used as the trade name for a polymer with similar properties, perfluoroalkoxy polymer resin (PFA):
F F F F | | | | R - C - C - C - C - R | | | | F F F O | F - C - F | F
Teflon has the lowest coefficient of friction of any solid material known to man. It is used as a non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. Teflon is very unreactive, and so is often used in containers and pipework for reactive chemicals. Its melting point is 327 °C.
Teflon is sometimes said to be a spin-off from the US space program with more down-to-earth applications, but actually its first significant use was in the Manhattan Project, as a material to contain highly-reactive uranium hexafluoride. It was first sold commercially in 1946.
Teflon has been supplemented with another DuPont product, Silverstone, a three-coat fluoropolymer system that produces a more durable finish than Teflon. Silverstone was released in 1976.
Amongst many other industrial applications, Teflon is used to coat certain types of hardened, armour-piercing bullets, so as to reduce the amount of wear on the firearm's rifling. These are often mistakenly referred to as "cop-killer" bullets on account of Teflon's supposed ability to ease a bullet's passage through bullet-proof armour. Any armour-piercing effect is, however, purely a function of the bullet's velocity and rigidity rather than a property of Teflon.
Teflon has been implicated in cancer, though DuPont denies any association.
- DuPont's History of Teflon (http://www.dupont.com/teflon/newsroom/history.html)
- Chemical Achievers: Roy J. Plunkett (http://www.chemheritage.org/EducationalServices/chemach/pop/rjp.html)
- Dave Kopel on "cop-killers" (http://www.nationalreview.com/kopel/kopel200403010926.asp)
- Teflon is toxic to pet birds" (http://www.ewg.org/reports/toxicteflon/)
- Thermolysis of fluoropolymers as a potential source of halogenated organic acids in the environment (http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v412/n6844/abs/412321a0_fs.html)
- If Teflon is nonsticky, how do they get it to stick to the pan? (http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a4_173.html) (from The Straight Dope)