Teflon, a plastic material technically known by its abbreviation PTFE, for polytetrafluoroethylene, was discovered by a Du Pont chemist, Roy Plunkett, in 1938. The material is an excellent insulator and is extremely slippery, resisting adherence. Applications proliferated after World War II, with the concept of developing nonstick cookware occurring in several locations in about 1952. In France, Marc Gregoire founded a company, Tefal, in 1955 to market such cookware, and in Britain, Philip Harben produced Harbenware, a popular brand of nonstick cooking pan. Du Pont entered large-scale production of Teflon cookware in 1962. Along with several other chemicals and plastics, the marvelous qualities of PTFE appear to have been discovered accidentally.

Teflon is soft, waxy, opaque, and inert to nearly all solvents. It stands up well under temperature variations, although it breaks down at temperatures above about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is very resistant to weathering and is nonflammable. Its durable and unique qualities have led to a constantly proliferating set of applications, not only in cookware but also in medical and industrial uses. Teflon is used in industry for tubing, valve packing and lining, gaskets, stopcocks, belt coatings, insulation, sockets, plugs, and other parts. Since it resists breaking down under exposure to chemicals, is lightweight, and does not adhere, it has found uses in kidney dialysis machines and in the construction of artificial organs.


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