"We recognized almost at once that the material was different and that It had potential... “
In 1938 research chemist Roy Plunkett (1910-1994) was working at the DuPont Jackson laboratory in New Jersey. He had been trying to improve refrigerants to make them nontoxic and nonflammable. Plunkett and his technician Jack Rebok had produced 100 pounds (45 kg) of tetrafluoroethylene gas (TFE), storing it in cylinders on dry ice. When the time came to use the material, nothing came out of the cylinder, even though it weighed the same as before. The gas had turned into a white powder.
Plunkett and others at DuPont found that the substance was quite slippery and proved to be a good lubricant. It was resistant to chemicals and heat, and other substances would not adhere to it. The material was resistant to temperatures as high as 500°F (260°C). Plunkett and his colleagues realized the potential of this new polymer and DuPont set about marketing it.
At first Teflon® (the new trade name for this substance) was so expensive that no one seemed interested in purchasing it. However, this slowly changed as the material was used first in military and industrial applications and later in household use, most notably on nonstick pans. Awarded a patent in 1941, Teflon® is used as a coating for fabrics, wires, and metals—three-quarters of the pots and pans sold in the United States are coated with it—and also in industries such as aerospace and pharmaceuticals.