Gore-Tex Invention

A case where science moved by fits and starts rather than reasoned logic. The invention of Gore-Tex, capable of repelling water and stretching as needed.

From “Transmutations”, Fall 2013, newsletter of the Chemical Heritage Foundation using a quote from Robert Gore’s book The Early Days of W. L. Gore and Associates.

Bob Gore stretching thread of teflon
Bob Gore stretching a thread of Teflon

          “One night in late October [1969] … I set the lab oven to high temperatures, just below the PTFE melt point.  At this high temperature, I was having very poor luck with my stretching experiments.  I was stretching the beading very carefully, and I was getting results that were only 10 percent stretch, or even less, before they would break. … I was really frustrated.  I was being so carefully, and I actually said to the next sample, ‘Well, if you won’t stretch carefully, I’m going to give you a yank.’  And I took it out of the oven, I gave it a vicious yank, and the thing stretched the full length of my two outstretched arms, about ten times its original length!”

Note: PTFE is the chemical acronym for Teflon.

Picture Bob Gore stretching a thread of Teflon from Science History Institute / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

A few other examples of creativity in science


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