Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Last time I took a friend shopping, it was a very frustrating experience, because she wanted a pan without PTFE, and all of them had it.

There's a very practical reason. PTFE is better known by the name its inventor, DuPont Chemistry, came up for it. They call it "Teflon." It is a slick, plastic-like substance that can be stuck to a metal surface. Once the surface is coated, nothing ever sticks to it again. This is appreciated on cooking pans and pots, because cleaning now means a quick rinse. A PTFE coated surface is waterproof, easily cleaned, and electrically insulating.

However, my friend is suspicious of the other side of PTFE. If heated to 260C (500F) it decomposes into a bad smelling gas that mildly poisons humans, who experience "flu-like symptoms" and poisons birds to death in short order, since they are smaller and have more fragile lungs. My friend is a bird owner, and concerned that the "flu-like" effect may be cumulative.

Now that temperature is unlikely, since it is significantly above the "smoke point" of most foods. A food heated to the "smoke point" emits awful-smelling smoke as it burns, irritating the eyes, nose, and sensibility of anyone around.

Because of the temperature concerns, I'd prefer to use PTFE in room-temperature applications, of which there are plenty. A PTFE coated floor would mop up without a need for soap. PTFE is easily used in firearms, making bullets that do less damage to the gun when fired, so the gun lasts longer. (No, contrary to rumor, a PTFE bullet is not armor-piercing.) If I could coat my toilet, it would be literally self-cleaning with every flush.

More madness when I have time.

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