At room temperature, most plastics exhibit familiar properties such as flexibility and high resistance to cracking. However, when the temperature decreases, flexibility is typically greatly reduced with many common plastics becoming brittle with low failure stresses. Low temperatures can often be more harmful to plastics than high temperatures. Catastrophic failures can occur if material selection does not take into account low temperature properties of their materials.
Fluoropolymers at Low Temperatures
While they lose flexibility at temperatures below freezing, fluoropolymers retain their lubricity, abrasion resistance, and strength. Extensive testing at 32 °F (0 °C) and below has shown that PTFE is among the best performance fluoropolymers for cryogenic applications. PTFE has a working temperature that extends down to -400 °F (-240 °C) displaying little or no increased brittleness. PTFE remains highly flexible at temperatures below -100 °F (-73 °C). While there are several other fluoropolymers that can perform at extremes of low temperatures, such as FEP and PFA for example, they do not retain the range of operating parameters of PTFE.
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