Our fried eggs have happily slid around frying pans without the need for oil thanks to the efforts of the French engineer…
Ever since 1956, our fried eggs have happily slid around frying pans without the need for oil thanks to the efforts of the French engineer Marc Grégoire. Flashing back to 1938, we find several engineers from the DuPont de Nemours group, having just chanced upon a remarkable discovery -- tetrafluoroethylene, otherwise known by its more recognizable commercial name, Teflon TM. While researching an odorless gas, they have accidentally created a slippery, white plastic that is highly resilient, resisting everything from corrosion to bacteria to heat. In fact, the material is so durable that it‘s then used to coat uranium-storage equipment for the first atomic bombs.
Fast forward to 1954, when Mr. Grégoire, an engineer at ONERA 1, came up with a much more peaceful way to exploit the material’s miraculous properties. The fishing-aficionado was quite proud of his idea; he used Teflon TM to coat the rings of his fishing rod so that the line would slide more easily.
His wife Colette was unimpressed and suggested that he focus on inventing something to help in a more crucial area…
However, his wife Colette was unimpressed and suggested that he focus on inventing something to help in a more crucial area, such as her pots and pans. He ended up doing exactly that. One day, while watching milk boiling in a saucepan, Grégoire had the idea of using Teflon TM yet again. He immediately called the Parisian DuPont de Nemours office to ask for the liquid form of the miraculous material so he could coat the bottoms of frying pans. Upon hearing this, the DuPont men laughed quietly to themselves; the plastic’s properties meant that it would not stick to anything, much less a frying pan. Still, they were willing to sell him a supply of the material.
Grégoire was not put off and had the brilliant idea…
Grégoire was not put off and had the brilliant idea of adding drops of hydrochloric acid to the bottoms of the pans in order for the plastic to adhere to them. Yet even after this great success, he could not find a single manufacturer who was willing to market his invention. Undaunted, he created his own business and sold his pans on the street under the name Téfal, a blending of the words Teflon TM and aluminum. Since then, more than one billion non-stick frying pans have been sold worldwide, and it is safe to say that this patent buttered the Grégoire family’s bread for many, many years.
(1) Office national d'études et de recherches aérospatiales (National Office of Aerospace Studies and Research).

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