Teflon

Teflon

Teflon is a name we have been used to hear from our childhood as it is an important element used in nonstick cookware utensils. Teflon is actually made of a chemical compound named polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) which is a synthetic fluoropolymer which has been under use for various purposes. The discoverer of PTFE named Roy Plunkett found the same while working for DuPont in New Jersey in 1938 by accident.

During the 1990’s, it was found that in a case where an oxygen-free atmosphere is present, there is a possibility of radiation cross links for PTFE above the point of melting. Another instance of radiation processing is Electron beam processing. There is stability for radiation and better mechanical properties at high temperature. Earlier there used to happen to break down of the chemical compound for recycling owing to the irradiation at conditions that are ambient.

How Teflon is Produced

The chemical compound is produced by tetrafluoroethylene undergoing free radical polymerization. The equation for the process is

n F2C=CF2 → −(F2C−CF2)n−

Since it is necessary to have a special apparatus necessary for preventing hot spots during the process of polymerization from triggering side reactions that are dangerous due to the fact that tetrafluoroethylene could decompose to carbon and tetrafluoromethane explosively. The process starts with the hemolyzing of persulfate that forms sulfate radicals:

[O3SO−OSO3]2− ⇌ 2 SO4•−

The resultant of this reaction is the termination of the polymer using sulfate ester groups that could create OH end-groups by hydrolyzing.

As the chemical compound has a bad reputation when it comes to being solvent in almost all solutions, the polymerization happens in water through the emulsion. Particles of Polymer in the form of suspension is created by this process. Sometimes surfactant like PFOS are used for doing polymerization. 

Chemical properties

The compound is used as the coating for nonstick pans as they are hydrophobic and has a high resistance capacity to heat.  Known as a polymer thermoplastic and has a density of 2200 kg/m3 while appearing as a white solid at normal temperature.  The melting point is 327 0C with self-lubrication at the temperature of -268.15 0C while possessing its usual hardness and high strength.

From the above discussion it is evident as to why this chemical compound has fascinated scientists and students of the science around the world and would continue to do so in the years to come.


Practise This Question

Electrolysis involves oxidation and reduction respectively at

[CPMT 1973; AMU 1983; NCERT 1983, 84; MH CET 2001]