Dr. Roy Plunkett, inventor of Teflon
Teflon, that miracle non stick surface that is used in cookware and other applications, was not invented as part of the space program, as many people believe. Yes, it was invented by accident, but in early experiments on refrigeration.
Dr Roy Plunkett, working for Dupont accidentally invented it in 1938. He was experimenting with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and created one particular variety of the chemical at the end of the working day. The next morning, when he resumed working on it, he noticed it had changed. The liquid had become a waxy solid that was extremely slippery. Further experimentation revealed that the substance also was inert to virtually all chemicals, including highly corrosive acids.
What was later called Teflon was used in a wide variety of industrial uses, including the first atomic bombs and, later, insulating cables on the Apollo spacecraft that went to the Moon. Teflon has the lowest friction rating of any known solid material.
So, if it’s so slippery, how do they get it to stick to pans? They sandblast the pans, creating tiny scratches on the surface then they spray on a thin coating of the slippery stuff. Then it is baked at high heat, causing the Teflon to harden and grip the pan surface. It’s then coated with sealant and baked again.
Teflon is not the only non stick surface these days. Other manufacturers use slightly different chemical methods to create non stick pans, but Teflon was the first and most famous.