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Teflon: Bring home the bacon, fry it up in the...

Type of Engineering involved: Chemical

Some materials are good for lots and lots of things, even though the people who discover them aren't sure what these things are at first. In 1938, scientists at the DuPont Company accidentally discovered polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). It took them more than 10 years to find a use for it, but these days PTFE is found in most of our homes. We know it by its trade name - Teflon.

Teflon is a very versatile material. It is heat resistant - maintaining its properties even beyond 500 degrees F - tough, flexible, and chemically inert. It won't absorb moisture and doesn't rust or otherwise degrade when exposed to harsh environmental conditions. Perhaps most importantly, it has a low co-efficient of friction. In other words things don't stick to it. Knowing about its properties, can you think what some of the uses of Teflon are? Teflon is used to coat surgical implants, lab equipment and fiber optic cables. It is used to treat fabrics so that they resist stains. Teflon has also played an important role in the space program. But, most of us know Teflon from our home kitchens where it is used as a coating on cookware, and lets us fry up bacon or cook other food without a sticky mess.

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