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Fluoropolymers - The non-stick coating discovered by accident

Slippery, slick and extremely useful, fluoropolymers are high-performance thermoplastics containing carbon and fluorine molecules that form strong bonds. The first fluoropolymer was discovered accidentally in a laboratory in the late 1930’s, and the result was tetrafluoroethylene, the most famous and effective non-stick coating for cookware on the market. Since then, plenty of other fluoropolymers have been developed, and the most frequently used are ETFE, FEP, PVDF and PTFE.

 

Fluopolymers applications

Fluoropolymers can be used on rods, coatings, and tapes.

Main properties 

Coatings made of fluoropolymers are non-stick and heat resistant, making them ideal for use in cookware. Different from most polymers, fluoropolymers can resist temperatures of up to 300 °C. Another remarkable property of fluoropolymers is the thermoplastic’s complete resistance to bases, acids, and solvents due to its chemical inertness over a wide range of temperatures. Added to this is an extremely low surface energy and coefficient of friction, the unique properties that give fluoropolymers their valuable non-stick quality. They are also thermally resistant and stable, flame-retardant, abrasion resistant, dielectric and weatherproof. Finally, fluoropolymers are strong, durable, non-toxic and very versatile

Processing Fluoropolymers

To produce a polymer such as PTFE, the manufacturer starts with a monomer, commonly tetrafluoroethylene (TFE). Then, polymerization occurs, during which chemically stable carbon-fluoride bonds are formed and no further stabilization methods or processing aids are required. The fluoropolymer PTFE is produced in one of three different formats: dispersion, fine powder or granular. Pastes that are suitable for extrusion can be created by mixing the fine powder with a lubricant, whereas granular PTFE and aqueous dispersion often form the basis for surface applications such as non-stick coatings.

Applications

Fluoropolymers are most sought-after in the petrochemical and chemical processing industries. They enhance aircraft and vehicle safety and performance and line pipes and tanks that are subject to harsh chemical environments. Fluoropolymers are effective for use in flame retardants for buildings and factories. They coat cables and kitchenware, the most famous application in this field being the non-stick coatings of frying pans and bakeware. The semiconductor industry relies on fluoropolymer resins to protect tools, systems, and equipment against chemicals and ionic contamination. Biomedical applications of fluoropolymers include implant and catheter components.

Advantages

  • Creates a non-stick surface for easy cleaning
  • Thermally resistant
  • Chemically inert
  • Flame retardant
  • Incredibly versatile

List of Fluoropolymers categories

  • PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene)
  • PFA (perfluoroalkoxy alkane)
  • FEP (fluorinated ethylene propylene)
  • ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene)
  • PVDF (polyvinylidene fluoride)
  • ECTFE (ethylene chlorotrifluoroethylene)

 

Popular trade names for Fluoropolymers

  • Teflon
  • Tedlar
  • Kynar
  • Nafion
  • Viton