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PTFE vs. Teflon

Oct 7th 2021

PTFE vs. Teflon

PTFE and Teflon are hugely important to hundreds of industries across the globe. These materials are responsible for the machinery, processing facilities, and automation lines in thousands of places worldwide.

Teflon, unlike PTFE, is a household name. You may likely have a nice non-stick Teflon-coated in your kitchen cabinet. You may not realize that you very likely used PTFE in other places just throughout your own home.

PTFE is a rare term outside of commercial use. Perhaps even if you know what PTFE is, you might wonder how it compares to Teflon. Let’s start with the basics: what is PTFE?

What is PTFE?

PTFE, or as it is scientifically known: polytetrafluoroethylene, is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene. It’s basically a very tough polymer.

In the United States, PTFE was patented in 1945 and has been an industry essential ever since. The average person will recognize it in such applications as a non-stick coating on cookware, though it has many other uses beyond that.

Chemically speaking, PTFE only consists of carbon and fluorine. It was created by accident by Dr. Roy Plunkett in 1938 when he was trying to improve upon coolant gas. The gas solidified into a slime-like polymer, and Dr. Plunkett noted its remarkable properties.

The following year, it was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the “slickest substance” known to man. By 1942 PTFE had found applications in the war effort, including the first atomic bomb. DuPont, the company Dr. Plunkett worked for, registered a trademark in 1945 for their PTFE material.

By 1961, PTFE had found its way onto pans as a revolutionary non-stick coating and into the space race of 1969. Today, people continue to find new uses for this remarkable substance.

The Characteristics of PTFE

  • Hydrophobic

    • PTFE is not only waterproof, but it also repels all water-based liquids. Its extremely smooth, non-porous surface makes it ideal for various applications, such as acting as a pipeline to transport chemicals.
  • Almost entirely chemically inert

    • PTFE does not react with almost any other chemical substance. Lack of chemical reaction is one of the main reasons it is such a good choice for cookware. Metals like aluminum, for example, easily corrode when they come into contact with acids, such as lemon juice.
  • High electrical resistance

    • PTFE does not conduct electricity very well, making it safe to use around electrical currents.
  • High dielectric strength

    • Similarly, PTFE is dielectric. This property makes it an excellent choice for wiring as it acts as an insulator.
  • High flexural strength

    • PTFE has high flexural strength. Flexural strength means it can bend quite a bit before breaking. Its flexibility gives it more durability and resistance to repeated movements, making it perfect for machine parts and hose linings.
  • Lowest friction of any solid material

    • In combination with its hydrophobic properties, PTFE’s low friction coefficient makes it the ideal material for non-stick cookware, pipelines, and windshield wipers.
  • Very large temperature operating range

    • PTFE has a large temperature range that it can work within. It has a melting point of 327°C and can work down to -200°C (the Teflon melting point and working freezing point are the same).

What is Teflon?

Earlier in the article we mentioned that Dupont acquired a trademark for their PTFE creation in 1945. What was it that Dupont trademarked? Well, the name Teflon™.

Essentially, Teflon is just the brand-name version of PTFE. It’s like the difference between tissues and Kleenex, or cotton swabs and Q-tips. Many people use the brand name Kleenex to refer to any tissue. It’s the same story with Teflon; people say Teflon when talking about any brand of PTFE, whether they realize it or not. They’ll also pay a premium price just for the name without realizing it.

PTFE in Ball Valves

Ball valves, a common component in automotive, oil, gas, chemical processing, and many other industries, are invaluable tools for controlling pipeline flow. Ball valves can be either mechanical or electric, but both serve the same purpose.

When the ball is in line with the pipe, the opening in the middle allows liquid or gas to flow. If the ball rotates 90°, then the flow stops because the solid sides of the ball close off the pipe. Using durable materials in ball valves will ensure the consistent flow of liquid or gas without the threat of leaks.

PTFE in Ball Valve Ball Seats

PTFE is one of the best materials to incorporate into ball valves. Thanks to its above-mentioned properties, PTFE is durable enough to withstand even the harshest chemicals. Our motorized ball valves incorporate PTFE into the ball seat. Because the valve seat is responsible for sealing fluid within the valve, as well as distributing the stress upon the valve uniformly, it's essential to find a ball valve with a seat that consists of a durable and dependable material.PTFE involves low friction, dry running capabilities, and a variety of chemical compatibilities. It is durable enough to withstand cryogenic temperatures between -50°F and 550°F as well as pressures up to 5,000 psi. This material is approved by the FDA and can easily be cleaned, making it a great option for ball seats.A few characteristics that PTFE has which will benefit ball seats are:

  • Ability to retain its shape even during thermal expansion or temperature changes
  • Chemical compatibility with different materials
  • Low friction to resist stem torque
  • Long service life
  • Excellent ductility which makes for a great seal

PTFE vs. Teflon

So, between PTFE and Teflon, who is the winner? Was there even a contest to begin with?

The long and short is that they are the same thing. Teflon is simply a trademarked brand name for PTFE material.

The only notable difference between Teflon and other brands of PTFE is that people recognize Teflon by name. In fact, the marketing around Teflon is so secure that companies need to apply to license the name.

While the material remains the same, the only difference is usually a startling price range between generic PTFE and Teflon.