(1910 - 1994)
Major Field of Study: Chemistry
Specific Accomplishment: Discovered Teflon
Home Town: New Carlisle, Ohio
High School: Newton High School, Pleasant Hill Ohio
Bachelor’s Degree: Manchester College, Bachelor of Science, Chemistry, 1932
Master’s Degree: Ohio State University, Master of Science, Chemistry, 1933
Doctoral Degree: Ohio State University, PHD, Chemistry, 1936
Engineering and Science Achievements:
Roy J. Plunkett discovered the existence of polytetrafluoroethylene, commonly known as Teflon, a highly non-reactive, corrosion-/heat-resistant substance with low surface friction. Teflon is used in numerous products, but is primarily known to millions of people for its application as a non-stick cookware coating. Other uses include aerospace and computer wiring, lubricants, catheter coatings, surgical grafts, and pipe coatings.
Plunkett’s breakthrough was serendipitous. While attempting to develop a chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant for DuPont in 1938, he discovered that the tetrafluoroethylene gas in his pressure bottle had been polymerized into a slippery, waxy, white material. It turned out that the gas had been catalyzed at high pressure by the iron in the bottle. Although not helpful to his refrigerant project, Plunkett was quick to recognize the potential of the newfound substance. The discovery was patented in 1941 and registered with the Teflon trademark in 1945.
One of the first uses of Teflon was in the World War II Manhattan Project at Oakridge, Tennessee, where it was applied as a coating for valves and pipes storing highly reactive materials. Commercial marketing of Teflon cookware began with the French firm Tefal and 1954, while the first American Teflon kitchenware went on sale in 1961 under the name “Happy Pan.”
An Ohio native reared near the present-day site of the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame, Plunkett spent his entire career with DuPont (1936-1975), where he also directed the production of Freon, as well as the gasoline octane-boosting additive tetraethyllead.
Plunkett has been honored by DuPont through the establishment of the Plunkett Award, which recognizes contributors of new Teflon products.
“Roy J. Plunkett,” National Inventors Hall of Fame, retrieved 14 July 2016 from http://invent.org/inductee-detail/?IID=121
“Roy J. Plunkett,” Wikipedia, retrieved 14 July 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_J._Plunkett
“Polytetrafluoroethylene,” Wikipedia, retrieved 14 July 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytetrafluoroethylene
“Roy J. Plunkett,” Chemical Heritage Foundation, retrieved 14 July 2016 from http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/online-resources/chemistry-in-history/themes/petrochemistry-and-synthetic-polymers/synthetic-polymers/plunkett.aspx
“1938 Roy Plunkett,” DuPont web site, retrieved 14 July 2016 from http://www.dupont.com/corporate-functions/our-company/dupont-history.html