Processes

PTFE is used here as an example of fluoropolymer manufacture.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a polymer made of long, linear polymer chains containing only carbon and fluorine atoms. This gives the polymer its exceptional properties. It is produced from tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) which is the starting material (called a monomer). TFE is made in several steps starting from common salt (sodium chloride NaCl), methane and from an ore called fluorspar. TFE gas is introduced into a closed vessel under pressure and is polymerised using a catalyst to form very long chains. Polymerisation reactions are often initiated with active molecules called "free radicals”. Radical initiated reactions can run very fast and give out a great deal of heat. To prevent such reactions running out of control, the reaction vessels are water cooled; even so, great care must be taken not to allow reaction conditions to become unstable. As well as temperature control, polymer chemists can modify reaction conditions by the use of chemicals (chain transfer agents) and can modify the polymer itself by the use of different comonomers to produce copolymers.
Did you know ?
  • Researchers recently modified an elastomer used to make tires so it can self heal. © American Chemistry Council, Inc.
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