The History of Teflon™ Fluoropolymers

An Accidental Discovery

The Teflon™ story began on April 6, 1938. Dr. Roy J. Plunkett was working with gases related to refrigerants. After checking a frozen, compressed sample of tetrafluoroethylene, he and his associates made an unexpected discovery: The sample had polymerized spontaneously into a white, waxy solid to form polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

PTFE is inert to virtually all chemicals and considered the most slippery material in existence, making it one of the most valuable, versatile technologies invented. Many industries—aerospace, communications, electronics, industrial processes, and architecture—owe some of their significant advances to PTFE.

Since its registration in 1945, the Teflon™ trademark has become a familiar brand, recognized worldwide for the superior nonstick properties associated with its use as a:

  • Coating on cookware
  • Soil and stain repellent for fabrics and textile products
  • Superior coating in harsh manufacturing environments and industrial products

The first Teflon™ products were sold commercially under the trademark starting in 1946. Applications and product innovations quickly followed.

Today, the family of Teflon™ fluoropolymers from Chemours consists of:

  • PTFE, the original polymer introduced to the market in 1946
  • FEP, introduced in 1960
  • Tefzel™ ETFE, introduced in 1970
  • PFA, introduced in 1972

Scientists described the invention of PTFE as "an example of serendipity, a flash of genius, a lucky accident—even a mixture of all three." Whatever the circumstances, one thing is certain: PTFE revolutionized the plastics industry—and gave birth to limitless applications that benefit mankind.

Scientific, academic, and civic communities worldwide have recognized Plunkett for his contribution. Inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 1973, and in 1985, to the National Inventors' Hall of Fame, he joined distinguished scientists and innovators like Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, and the Wright Brothers.

The spirit of Dr. Plunkett's invention has been commemorated globally with the Chemours Plunkett Awards for innovation.