Roy Plunkett – discoverer of Teflon | produced gasoline additive Tetraethyl lead

Roy Plunkett – discoverer of Teflon

Category : Personalities
Published by : Data Research Analyst, Worldofchemicals.com

Biography & contributions

Every household has utensils that are coated with one particular type of material and even this material is slippery nature and highly resistant to chemicals and heat. During World War II this material was used to manufacture many products in Manhattan project.

This material is now branded with the name of Teflon [Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)] and person who discovered this material was Roy Plunkett.

Roy Plunkett, an American chemist born on June 26, 1910 – died on May 12, 1994. Plunkett was involved in discovery of a type of polymer product and Tetra-ethyl lead.

Plunkett and Jack Rebok, were testing the chemical reactions of the refrigerant gas tetrafluoroethylene (TFE). One of the pressurized cylinders of the tetrafluoroethylene gas, which they filled earlier, failed to discharge when its valve was opened. They set the cylinder aside, but Rebok later noticed it was too heavy to be empty, and suggested they cut it open to see what had gone wrong. Plunkett agreed, despite the risk of an explosion; and they discovered that the gas inside the cylinder had inexplicably solidified into a white powder.


He identified that that materials is having much more lubricant than other slippery solids, like graphite. It proved inert to virtually all other chemicals and had an extremely high melting point. Plunkett found that the gas had polymerized becoming polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin. Its unique properties were caused by an impenetrable shield of fluorine atoms which lock onto and protect the compound's essential string of carbon atoms.

Facts about polytetrafluoroethylene


Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a completely fluorinated polymer produced when the monomer tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) undergoes free radical vinyl polymerization.

PTFE is used as a non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. It is very non-reactive, partly because of the strength of carbon-fluorine bonds and so it is often used in containers and pipework for reactive and corrosive chemicals. PTFE as a lubricant reduces friction, wear and energy consumption of machinery. It is also commonly used as a graft material in surgical interventions.

PTFE is particularly suitable for bearings, joints, O-rings, stirring bars, hazardous materials bottle pouers, syringes, crucubles, evaporating dishes etc. PTFE may be shaped by compression and sintering into bottles and beakers where its chemical stability and non-wettability make it suitable for use in extreme circumstances.

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