PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) is one of the most versatile plastics available. This versatility leads to the material being used in many applications, such as cookware and medical supplies. In this article we tell you more and talk to Ernst Buter, one of our PTFE experts.
PTFE is a plastic that was discovered by Roy Plunkett in 1938. It originated from an accidental discovery during research into coolants and has evolved into one of the most versatile materials available today. It was first used commercially in 1949. Since then, PTFE has become indispensable in countless industries.
PTFE’s popularity and widespread use have everything to do with its unique properties. One of the material’s most important properties is its high temperature resistance: it is suitable for temperatures ranging from -190°C to +260°C. Even at these extremes it retains its non-stick properties, making it ideal for applications involving high temperatures. Think of products like car exhausts and kitchen utensils, even the coating of space suits.
Another key advantage of PTFE is its low coefficient of friction. The smooth surface makes it suitable for applications where low friction is important. Ernst explains: ‘Suppose something weighs 100 kg and you pull it, then it still has a pulling force of 100 kg. But suppose you put a PTFE plate underneath it, then the pulling force is only half a kilo.’ Ernst gives the example of ships sliding down a slope. ‘It’s a lot easier with PTFE.’
In addition, PTFE is one of the best insulators. This makes it very suitable for use in insulators and high-voltage applications for electrical installations.
PTFE is also widely used in the chemical industry. For example, Polyfluor has been producing PTFE plastic hoses for 40 years. Thanks to the chemical resistance of PTFE, chemical liquids can safely pass through these hoses. Furthermore, PTFE is non-reactive, meaning that it does not react with other materials. This also makes the material suitable for use in the pharmaceutical and food industry. PTFE has FDA and EU10/2011 approval for food contact.
Another property of PTFE is that it is inert and non-toxic. This makes it safe for use in implants and other medical devices. In addition, the material is resistant to sterilisation by steam or ethylene oxide, making it suitable for applications in hospitals and other medical facilities.
Ernst says that the possibilities of PTFE are endless thanks to modification. ‘PTFE has many unique properties but it is not wear-resistant, for example. So we add additives to give it that wear-resistant property. You can’t melt PTFE either. The sisters PFA and FEP can be melted, yet retain the same other advantages as PTFE. Moreover, PTFE can be produced in all colours.’ In short: there’s a suitable solution for every request.
At Polyfluor, we help you put together the right material for the application you have in mind. We respond to your specific needs with innovative solutions. Want to know more about PTFE or make a request? Then please contact us.