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Multiphysics Simulation: An IEEE Spectrum Insert
Manager’s Guide

Modeling Helps Improve Safety in the Production of Teflon

Martin Beckmann-Kluge & Fabio Ferrero

BAM German Federal Institute for Materials Research & Testing, Berlin, Germany

BAM German Federal Institute for Materials Research & Testing in Berlin promotes industrial development by providing research and consultation on materials technology and chemical engineering. Their recent work has been in analyzing the process by which highly flammable TFE gas is converted into a solid called PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), or the non-stick coating commonly known as Teflon.

PlasticsEurope contacted BAM German Federal Institute for Materials Research & Testing for the creation of a mathematical model of the self-heating of TFE to determine the Maximum Ignition Temperature of Decomposition (MITD).

Using COMSOL Multiphysics, they were able to find six reactions taking place in the heated gas phase that were needed for an accurate model. Three physics interfaces in COMSOL Multiphysics were used: non-isothermal flow interface, convection and conduction interface, and convection and diffusion interface. The model now allows companies to determine if for a given reactor a specific pressure/temperature setting is not safe and then adapt their process.

Teflon is a registered trademark of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Temperature (K) in a 3-dm³-vessel, shown in the left cross-section, after 21 s; note the hot zone building up in the upper section. The cross-section at the rightshows the complex velocity field caused by free convection in the vessel.