A surprising polymer

Belarusian scientists discover new properties of the old material

Belarusian scientists discover new properties of the old material

Researchers of the Metal-Polymer Mechanics Research Institute of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences discovered unexpected properties of polytetrafluoroethylene, a polymer also known as Fluoroplastic-4 in Russia or Teflon in the US. Discovered more than 70 years ago, this material is characterized with high biological and chemical rigidity and has a wide temperature range, between cryogenic temperatures and 250 degrees Celsius above zero. It has been studied for such a long time that it seemed impossible to uncover any new properties. Yet, another one has been disclosed recently.

When Belarusian scientists lasered a sample in vacuum, they saw sort of fluffy ‘moustaches’ growing from the plastic that quickly filled free space with snow-white ‘wadding’. A closer study of the strange substance revealed that at the nanolevel the resulting material had a very sophisticated surface. How can it be used?

“Understanding the value of our findings, we patented the method, registered the trademark -- Griftex -- and started deep research and technological experiments,” explains chief researcher of the Physics and Technology of Thin Films department at the Metal-Polymer Mechanics Research Institute of the National Academy of Sciences Evgeny Tolstopyatov, Dr. of Engineering. “First, Griftex was applied in filtering. Grif filters proved most efficient in natural gas purification. Almost 1.5 thousand filter elements have been supplied to our partner, a machine-building plant in Ukraine’s Sumy . They have been installed in 75 gas filling stations and gas turbine power plants. Filters are also used to clean hydrogen-containing gases at Mozyr oil refinery. Assuming that Griftex can be applied in medicine, we offered our developments to Grodno State Medical University .”

Ivan Tsydik of the medical university proved in his thesis that ‘wadding’ can be used for soft tissue plastic surgeries.

Experiments show that Griftex can be used also for manufacture of bandages that are more efficient for wound healing than traditional ones. The thing is that cotton bandages absorb moisture that can be a cause of pathogenic microbe penetration, while fluoroplastic fiber is water-resistant.

According to experts, medicine will be only one of many uses of the new material. It can be used as an inert carrier in catalysis systems, as a radio-transparent porous material in high-frequency electromagnetic fields, in sensors and electrical power sources, as a means of fine purification, and as filters in environmental monitoring devices. In addition, researchers are working on creation of thin fluoroplastic films that will open up a new page in integrated organic optics and power radio electronics.

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