Material of the Day: Teflon Jose Alfredo Lardizabal

The material of the day is teflon. Possibly one of the most commonly overlooked materials in the kitchen, one usually forgets of the existence of teflon unless it's not there. The chemical makeup of teflon is what allows it to be the versatile nonstick coating commonly seen, giving it a relatively high melting point, high chemical resistance, low coefficient of friction, as well as making it hydrophobic.

Cooking had been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. In all my years toiling away at the kitchen, I certainly learned not to take Teflon for granted. Many a night were spent slaving away, scraping pans due to leftover foodstuffs being stuck them. However, pans with nonstick coating lining them help make cleanup a snap.

What is it?

Teflon is the common name patented by DuPont co., with the makeup of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a resin resulting from the polymerization of tetrafluoroethylene. This makes for a white powder that could be treated onto materials that need nonstick coating as well as some industrial products such as pipe liners and bearings.

PTFE powder (

Structure and Composition

Polytetrafluoroethylene's makeup is in its name. It consists of chains of tetrafluoroethylene monomers in succession. Tetrafluoroethylene is made up of two carbons bonded together, with two fluorine atoms bonded to each carbon as seen in the figure below.

Tetrafluoroethylene Monomer (

Chaining these results in PTFE's defining qualities, as the carbon chain is enforced and protected by the fluorine surrounding it. The fluorine atoms are not only bonded strongly to the carbon, but also allow the polymer as a whole to become hydrophobic, as well as making it chemically inert.

Teflon at work (


The defining uses for teflon takes advantage of these subsequent properties: high melting point and resistance to water as well as other chemicals.

1. high melting point: compared to other compounds possibly used for insulating and jacketing, PTFE's intramolecular forces give it a relatively higher melting point than most (327 degrees celsius) . This allows it to be an ideal substance to use for cookware as such material is often subject to frequent temperature change.

Physical and Thermal qualities of multiple substances including PTFE (

2.resistance to water and other chemicals: Due to its molecular makeup, PTFE draws its nonstick properties from how the chain it comprises resists outside bonds, preventing anything from adhering or even compromising its molecular integrity. As stated before, the surrounding fluorine atoms binding to the carbon backbone makes the molecule hydrophobic, and its strong bonds give it excellent resistance to abrasion and other chemicals.

model of PTFE molecule (
Extended table from above, showing behavior with environmental factors as well (


Teflon has many practical uses stemming from the molecular properties it entails. While some controversy may surround it due to some harmful carcinogens emitted from improper care, overall when used properly the substance can have a decent impact on daily life.


1. Encyclopedia Britannica: Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

2. Druflon: Properties of PTFE and some other insulating materials

Photo references (in order used):



Created with images by Taken - "pan kitchenware teflon" • okchomeseller - "Kitchen"

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