Fluoropolymers And Withstanding Extreme Conditions

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The unique physical properties of fluoropolymers lend them to easily withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions. This versatility means that fluoropolymers are a preferred liner or cover material in numerous applications, including the aerospace industry.

PTFE, an acronym for polytetrafluoroethylene, is typically used in applications where nonstick, anti-corrosive, inert materials are needed to persevere in extreme environments. Science Direct further outlines this variety of fluoropolymer’s unique traits, including “nonreactivity, hydrophobicity, a low coefficient of friction, and good insulating properties. […] PTFE is among the most chemically inert, nontoxic, and nonflammable substances tested under normal usage conditions, and is not metabolized.”

Virgin, high-purity fluoropolymers present the most authentic capabilities. Free of other chemical additives, as well as any contamination from the environment in which they are produced, virgin fluoropolymers are produced with the highest quality in mind. At Fluoron, we have the capability of containing our manufacturing space, working with high quality control to prevent cross-contamination. In addition, we never reprocess our materials, ensuring that any plastics and dust, as well as possible material failure points, are eliminated to the highest degree possible.

High temperature resistance

Under the pressure and heat of extremely high temperatures, many materials would disintegrate or burn. In the case of a rocket or other craft hurtling upward through the Earth’s atmosphere, or back down for re-entry, the consequences of choosing the wrong material can be dire: losing a payload, changing trajectory, or even costing the lives of anyone on board. 

Enter fluoropolymers, which can cover spacecraft nose cones, allowing for atmospheric exit and re-entry that is protected from extreme thermal conditions and friction. Also, if the fluoropolymer reaches a point that it overheats, it will vaporize evenly, thus maintaining the craft’s trajectory and minimizing safety risks. These materials can heat up to 500°F before losing their capabilities and potentially vaporizing. Fluoron’s founder, Frank Chapman, was involved with fluoropolymers and space travel from its exploratory beginnings in the 1950’s. Chapman worked with Teflon® to develop one of the very first rocket nose cones, whose descendents are still used in flight today. 

In addition, fluoropolymers are useful in the case of exhaust systems, easily handling high temperatures and preventing corrosion in the presence of a harsh environment full of chemical fumes.

Low temperature resistance

Fluoropolymers are also resistant to cold extremes, as they retail elasticity and don’t become brittle when exposed to extreme temperatures. PolyAlto advises, “PTFE [polytetrafluoroethylene] is an advanced fluoropolymer used for extreme applications. PTFE can be used at temperatures as low as -240°C (-400°F).”

PTFE has the largest range of thermal resistance capabilities of any type of fluoropolymer, retaining strength and defying stress to maintain its purpose and protective abilities. In the aerospace industry, one applied example was using fluoropolymers to hold insulation onto rockets. Outside of aerospace, fluoropolymers can even be used in the cryogenic field, maintaining its anti-corrosive properties.

Weather resistance

  • Fluoropolymers, and especially PTFE, are excellent at resisting rain, snow, and other precipitation due to being extremely hydrophobic. Fluorine groups repel water, and the additional benefit of extreme temperature resistance means that fluoropolymers are suitable for outdoor applications, even in harsh environments where other polymers would be degraded. In addition to aerospace applications, fluoropolymers can be used as topcoats for steel and other materials, offering up to decades of weather-resistant protection for bridges and buildings.
  • Fluropolymer materials are especially durable in high-UV environments, as it does not filter the UV light or diminish in strength when exposed. This is one reason that fluoropolymers are used in UV sterilization lamps; other types of polymers would reduce in strength, and not provide the same sterilization effects. UV Solutions explains, “Given the high strength of ultraviolet rays, most polymers are not suited to UV sterilization. Various polymers have been tried over the years, and most general-purpose polymers were found to be useless.” They continue to explain that fluoropolymers are inert to ultraviolet rays, and it “is nonstick, bio-compatible, sturdy, and has a high tensile strength able to withstand high temperatures of +200°C and low temperatures of -200°C.”
  • In an aerospace context, fluoropolymers provide pass-through for wireless and radar signals, allowing for transmission of information to aircraft and missiles even in a variety of weather conditions. A low dielectric constant means that fluoropolymers can also maintain functionality through electrical events. Tech Target explains, “A high dielectric constant is not necessarily desirable. Generally, substances with high dielectric constants break down more easily when subjected to intense electric fields compared to materials with low dielectric constants.”

Partner With Us

When designing elements of your next aerospace project that require high thermal protection, as well as weather and friction resistance, consider fluoropolymers such as PTFE to do the job. Fluoron is ready to work with you; contact us to learn more about our deep aerospace expertise and have your questions answered. In certain use cases we guarantee our fluoropolymer products, with proper handling, up to 10 years–meaning that when you partner with us, you also receive consistent client support, and a commitment to quality and longevity that is unmatched in the industry.

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Fluoropolymers in Aerospace

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