PTFE is a versatile plastic polymer. You see it in kitchenware like non-stick pans and baking trays as well as in snow sleds and tubing. But, what exactly is it?
What Is PTFE?
PTFE is an acronym for polytetrafluoroethylene. It’s a solid, opaque-white material that’s made through the polymerization of tetrafluoroethylene or TFE.
While TFE is highly unstable and gaseous, the effects of polymerization create a chemical chain reaction that stabilizes and strengthens the bonds of fluorine and carbon. As a result, PTFE has impressive properties that are used in many industries, including food and drinks, aerospace, and tubing.
The following are the properties of PTFE.
The stable carbon and fluoride molecules in PTFE give it chemical inertness. This means, its form can’t be easily changed by heat, corrosion, and other reactions. This allows it to have the following properties:
Chemically resistant: PTFE has inherited carbon’s non-reaction to other chemicals, protecting the material from corrosive acids, aggressive alkalis, and neutral bases.
Hydrophobic: It’s non-reaction to bases also means water can’t pass through its surface or cause oxidation.
Tolerant to extreme temperatures: It can resist temperatures from sub-zero up to 621 °F.
Weathering resistant: Being chemically resistant, hydrophobic, and tolerant to extreme temperatures allows it to withstand natural erosion, crumbling, and wear and tear.
Here’s a fun fact: PTFE is one of the few materials that gecko’s palms can’t stick to. The tight and strong bonds of fluorine and carbon give an incredibly low friction coefficient.
PTFE’s non-stickiness makes it ideal for slide bearings, plates, gears, and similar moving parts in machinery and equipment. It’s mostly used in kitchenware, especially non-stick pans. This property can also be seen in ski shoes, sleds, flat irons, and simple sheet linings.
Excellent Electrical Insulation
Industries use PTFE for its dielectric property. When it’s placed in an electric field, the charge won’t flow in the material but will polarize instead. The effect creates an internal field that reduces the number of electrons lost while strengthening the electrical bonds. As a result, wires and cables made of PTFE are excellent insulators.
Polytetrafluoroethylene is a plastic polymer made from the polymerization of tetrafluoroethylene. The process strengthens the bonds of carbon and fluoride, allowing the material to have impressive chemical stability, electrical insulation, and low friction. These properties can be seen in kitchenware, aerospace materials, and PTFE heat shrink tubing.