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Teflon’s Role In World War 2


While the majority of people’s immediate thoughts when they hear about Teflon is relating to non stick kitchen goods, particularly frying pans, it has actually been used in a wide range of other instances that many wouldn’t be aware of. One such usage relates to the usage of Teflon during a major point of World War 2, The Manhattan Project.

What was the Manhattan Project?

This was the code name given to the somewhat controversial American-led project during World War 2, which focused on producing an atomic weapon off the back of reports that Germany were already heavily involved in a similar research and development project.

Off the back of the work of the project, the first ever atomic bomb was developed, tested and ultimately deployed on Hiroshima, before a second was also dropped on Nagasaki, which led to Japan surrendering a day later, helping to end the war.

How was Teflon involved?

As previously stated, Teflon did only play a small role, but it was important nonetheless. Having only been created a few years prior to The Manhattan Project, the relatively newly discovered applications of Teflon were still being expanded on, with new uses being found for both it’s non-stick and corrosion resistance properties.

It was its effectiveness in providing more durability in corrosive environments that led to Teflon being introduced into the plans of The Manhattan Project. The process of creating the atomic bomb involved the usage of uranium hexafluorides, a highly corrosive substance that could not only severely damage machinery and equipment, but also produce a wide range of dangerous health issues if exposed to.

With the need to ensure that the uranium hexafluorides could be utilised in the safest possible manner, workers on the project had to ensure that the valves and seals of the pipes storing it were not going to allow any leakage or be easily corroded, which is where Teflon came into play to minimise these risks.

This all came after Teflon was actually discovered by accident, by Roy Plunkett in 1938 whilst working on creating a new refrigerant, so without this mistaken creation, who knows how the end of World War 2 would have come about.

15:10 on 2019-03-29