NEWARK, Del. — October 8, 2019 — October 28, 2019 marks 50 years since the landmark discovery of a little known, yet widely used material that today serves as a core component for many everyday products including a wide array developed and produced by W. L. Gore & Associates. Expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) is a revolutionary material central to products with high societal value including implantable medical devices such as sutures and vascular grafts. Other diverse products include protective apparel, data transmission cables aboard the International Space Station, automotive fuel cells, guitar strings and mobile phone vents.
While widely known for its use in the highly recognized GORE-TEX Brand waterproof yet breathable apparel, the first such apparel of its kind. ePTFE is vital to thousands of other products produced daily for consumer, industrial and medical applications worldwide.
Bob Gore, former president and chairman of W. L. Gore & Associates and son of founders Bill and Vieve Gore, discovered ePTFE in 1969 while attempting to fulfill a large order for a less expensive PTFE tape. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) was a polymer already used extensively by Gore, and Bob thought that by heating PTFE it could be stretched to yield more product with less material.
Repeated attempts to stretch the material failed. Late one night in the lab as he was about to give up, Bob yanked in frustration on the material and it unexpectedly expanded the full length of his outstretched arms while retaining its original diameter.
Bob soon realized that his sudden yank at high temperature incorporated air into the PTFE’s structure allowing it to expand exponentially. This new material, which came to be known as expanded polytetrafluoroethylene or ePTFE, possessed additional properties including strength, porosity, and unique microstructures that offered great potential for use in a vast array of applications.
The original patent awarded to Gore for this development is designated as one of the U.S. Patent Office’s top 200 patents (out of more than 10 million patents issued). The original ePTFE patent is cited even more often than the patent for GPS technology or ink jet printing.
“It has been 50 years since Bob Gore discovered these new properties and effectively began the sequence of ePTFE innovation we now know and continue today,” said W. L. Gore & Associates president and CEO Jason Field. “The monumental impact ePTFE continues to have, not just on Gore as an Enterprise, but on thousands of other inventions across diverse industries, is truly revolutionary and immensely beneficial,” Field concluded.
Since ePTFE’s discovery, Gore has further developed its expertise in utilizing the material for a wide range of applications. Today, Gore engineers can alter specific attributes of ePTFE, such as structure, shape, and thickness in order to achieve desired performance in a variety of applications.
Such work by Gore Associates reflects the culture established by founders Bill and Vieve Gore. Central to Gore’s culture is fostering a work environment where Associates are encouraged to exercise their natural curiosity and innovative spirit in ways that influence everything Gore does. Just as Bob Gore did in 1969, Gore Associates today are still experimenting with innumerable applications of ePTFE and other advanced materials. As a result, Gore is now recognized as a materials science leader helping its customers address their greatest technical challenges.
Posted October 9, 2019
Source: W. L. Gore & Associates