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10 New Uses for Old Inventions

Thanks to its slipperiness, Teflon's second use almost eluded us.
Thanks to its slipperiness, Teflon's second use almost eluded us.

Say the word "Teflon," and you immediately think of nonstick cookware -- those slick, black pans you might use to make perfect pancakes. But that's not the first use of the famous chemical. After Roy J. Plunkett discovered the slippery, inert polymer in 1938, the company he worked for, DuPont, wondered what to do with it. First, the company trademarked its innovation as Teflon in 1945. Then it went in search of a buyer and encountered the U.S. military. Defense officials found Teflon useful in artillery shell fuses and in the production of nuclear material for the Manhattan Project.

After the war, DuPont looked for ways to incorporate Teflon into a consumer product. Developing nonstick cookware seemed like a good idea, but the very thing that made Teflon unique -- its slipperiness -- thwarted chemists trying to adhere the chemical to pots and pans. Finally, in 1954, French engineer Marc Gregoire figured out how to adhere Teflon to aluminum. A year later, he launched the TEFAL (TEF from Teflon and AL from aluminum) Company and began selling the world's first nonstick cookware. Today, DuPont offers its own line of nonstick cookware products, including Teflon Platinum Plus, which holds up to metal utensils.