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PTFE is a strong, non-flammable synthetic polymer that is chemically inert and relatively dense due to the large fluorine atoms that surround the carbon chain. It is a common material found in many products that require excellent heat resistance, electrical insulation, or water repellency.
Unlike polyethylene (PE), PTFE does not melt at low temperatures and is one of the most stable polymers known. It is also a very hydrophobic substance, meaning that it does not absorb water or other liquids. This property makes it ideal for a variety of applications including bushings and bearings that do not need lubricants, liners for equipment used in the storage and transport of corrosive chemicals or organic solvents, and electrical insulation under high-temperature conditions.
It is not only extremely stable, it has the lowest coefficient of friction of any solid substance. This is because the fluorine atoms shield the backbone of the carbon molecules, making them much less susceptible to electrostatic forces.
While PTFE is a highly efficient insulator, it can be difficult to bend and form into thin, flexible shapes. This is why a number of companies, including DuPont and 3M, have developed ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene).
This type of PTFE is often used in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications. For example, firefighters wear ePTFE-coated gear to protect their skin from high temperatures and reduce the risk of burns. The same material is also used for medical devices and coatings, including intravascular implants, that need to be able to withstand exposure to body fluids.