Roy J.

Plunkett

Inducted 1973

Roy J. Plunkett, was an American chemist best known for his discovery of Teflon™ polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin in 1938 while working as a chemist at DuPont. Plunkett joined DuPont in 1936 and became director of operations of the Freon Products Division of the Organic Chemicals Department at DuPont. He was a corporate leader at the Freon Products Division where he was responsible for the management of research, development, and production that led to numerous new fluorochemical products and processes.

Upon his induction into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 1973, Plunkett reflected on his career:

“The discovery of polytetrafluoroethylene resin appears in retrospect to have been more than a turning point in fluorine chemistry. It spawned a whole family of new plastics and resins. It occurred on April 6, 1938, when I opened a steel cylinder that had contained tetrafluoroethylene and found that it had polymerized to a white waxy solid. From this (discovery)) came the development, at DuPont, of Teflon™  polytetrafluoroethylene resin. So many useful inventions stemmed from this event that it is difficult to accept the fact that the field of fluorine chemistry was considered to be somewhat “mature” at the time, with really no new development in sight.

From its beginning, Teflon was a stimulus to research leading to a range of useful developments — an elastomer with excellent resistance to heat, oxidizing conditions, and chemical attack. Today it is serving in gaskets, seals, tubing, and other flexible forms used in severe temperature and chemical conditions. It also led to the development of stain- and moisture-resistant coatings for apparel, carpets, upholstery, and other textile products. Other developments were a grease- and moisture-resistant coating for paper and ingredients in weather-resistant paints. A resistant film was developed that is used for low-maintenance building exteriors.

The early difficulty in learning to fabricate and shape PTFE resin gradually gave way to the point where it was possible to form it into a fiber. Textiles made from it are used to make fabric bearings so flow- resistant that they can be used to support bridges.  In the 1950s, copolymers were developed that retained most of the chemical stability and mechanical properties of the original PTFE polymer, but they could be molded or extruded much like polyethylene.

………Even with this sustained flow of new fluoroplastics, the rest of this century will not see them grow in rank as one of the largest families of plastics. But in terms of benefit to mankind and in potential for further development, the outlook is bright. After more than 37 years of working in this field, I am proud to have been a first-hand observer of this growth.”


Areas of Expertise:

Plastic Materials

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