Roy J. Plunkett

From Ohio History Central
Polytetrafluoroethylene Molecule.jpg
Polytetrafluoroethylene Molecule (PTFE)

Roy J. Plunkett was born on June 26, 1910, in New Carlisle, Ohio. Plunkett received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Manchester College in 1932 and his doctoral degree in chemistry from The Ohio State University in 1936.

Upon graduation, Plunkett accepted a position with DuPont in Deepwater, New Jersey. One of his first assignments was to find a non-toxic, non-flammable coolant to be used in refrigerators. One of his attempts led to the creation of a slippery powder now called Teflon. Teflon's scientific name is Polytetrafluoroethylene. The powder proved capable of withstanding temperatures as cold as minus four hundred degrees Fahrenheit and as warm as five hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

It took several years for scientists to discover ways to use Teflon. During World War II, designers of the atomic bomb utilized Teflon to manufacture gaskets and linings that could resist the bomb's corrosive components. In 1954, two French engineers discovered that cookware coated in Teflon prevented food from sticking to the pots and pans. This discovery led to the first widespread commercial use of Teflon. Later in the twentieth century, scientists began to develop ways to utilize Teflon in the practice of medicine, as well as in numerous other industries.

Plunkett remained at DuPont until his retirement in 1975. He participated in the development and improvement of numerous products, including tetra-ethyl lead gasoline and freon. Because of Plunkett's discovery of Teflon, the Plastics Hall of Fame and the Inventors Hall of Fame honored the scientist in 1973 and 1985 respectively. Plunkett died on May 12, 1994.

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