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Carbon Monomers and Polymers

Some small carbon compounds can join repeatedly to form massive molecules.

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Too Slippery for a Gecko

Find out why the carbon polymer called Teflon is too slippery even for a Gecko and why this property, among others, makes it so useful.Too Slippery for a Gecko

License: CC BY-NC 3.0

This gecko is climbing straight up window glass. Glass is a slippery surface, but it’s not too slippery for a gecko. In fact, there is only one known surface that is too slippery for a gecko to climb. Its chemical name is polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE for short. You probably know it by the brand name Teflon®.

News You Can Use

  • There’s a good chance that at least one pot or pan in your kitchen has a black plastic coating. That plastic is Teflon®.
  • Since the 1950s, Teflon® has been a kitchen staple as a nonstick surface for pots and pans because it’s so slippery. But Teflon® has other properties that make it useful for a wide variety of purposes.
  • You can learn more about Teflon®, its uses, and its discovery by watching this short video: http://on.aol.com/video/learn-about-the-origin-of-teflon-83227122

Show What You Know

Find out more about Teflon® at the links below. Then answer the following questions.

  1. How was Teflon® discovered?
  2. What is the chemical structure of Teflon®?
  3. Fluorine is a halogen, and halogens are among the most reactive of all chemical elements. Why is Teflon® nonreactive? What applications of Teflon® take advantage of this property of the material?
  4. Aluminum, which is widely used for cookware, has a coefficient of friction of about 0.61. What is the coefficient of friction? What is the coefficient of friction of Teflon®?
  5. Teflon® is hydrophobic. What does this mean?
  6. Besides cookware, Teflon® is used to make many other products for the home and for personal use. What are some of these products, and why is Teflon® used to make them?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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