Gore products allow patients to heal. Gore makes outdoor adventurers comfortable, even in the unforgiving climate of Antarctica. Gore products reduce carbon emissions. Gore helps transmit signals from the Mars Rover back to Earth.
Since 1958, Gore has developed technological solutions that improve lives. At the center of these solutions is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a polymer with exceptional properties like high tensile strength, a low dielectric constant, high porosity and many more. In 1969, the possibilities for PTFE expanded with Bob Gore’s discovery of expanded PTFE, or ePTFE.
In the years since, we’ve developed unparalleled expertise in manipulating ePTFE and other fluoropolymers. Our engineers can change a material’s structure, shape, thickness and surface geometry, then pair it with complementary materials to provide the performance qualities required by the application and the customer. The resulting product can be strong or permeable, rigid or flexible, thin or wide — with many additional combinations of properties that can be applied to meet the end use application requirements.
Since its very founding, Gore has been passionate about solving the complex challenges of our global customers. From the first suggestion of a product need, to its delivery to market, this passion is apparent in everything we do.
- Curiosity: From keeping water off a person’s skin to preventing leaks from happening in chemical containers, we listen to our customers and analyze the real-world challenges, to determine the underlying problem.
- Competency: We determine how we can apply innovation and our core technology to deliver solutions that our valued and differentiated from the competition.
- Commitment: We rigorously test our products to ensure they deliver failure-free performance and suit our customers’ needs and applications, the first time and every time.
For almost 60 years, we’ve created and launched innovations aimed at improving lives in ways large and small. Each of Gores’ more than 2,000 patents — and the applications they enable — has started with a moment of scientific curiosity and the question, How can Gore improve lives?
The ePTFE Story
Like many great stories, the ePTFE story begins with a family.
In the mid-20th century, Bill and Vieve Gore lived in Utah with their children. The family explored Utah’s rugged landscape by taking frequent hiking trips, sometimes wearing backpacks and sleeping in tents made by Bill, an engineer and chemist. Bill was also a tinkerer, an entrepreneur and a believer in hands-on experience, to the extent that he insisted on not only designing his own house, but helping to build it.
The Gore family moved east from Utah, when Bill joined DuPont. In 1938, DuPont had discovered PTFE, a strong, synthetic polymer the company later used in a wide array of applications, from valves and seals to kitchen cookware.
In the late 1950s, while working at DuPont, Bill observed the growing momentum of the computer industry — and the opportunity to use PTFE to insulate computer cables. Following his intuition, Bill and Vieve started W. L. Gore & Associates in their basement on January 1, 1958. Their first product was MULTI-TET™ Insulated Wire and Cable.
Gore quickly found success as a provider of PTFE-insulated cables and cable components. Just two years into the company’s history, it sold 7.5 miles of ribbon cable to the city of Denver, Colorado, and on July 21, 1969, a Gore cable found its way to the moon as part of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.
Despite this success, the Gore story was just beginning.
Bill and Vieve’s son, Bob, joined the company in 1963. Bob, too, was an entrepreneur and innovator. Just as his father had a decade before, in 1969 Bob considered PTFE and wondered if there was an opportunity to do more with the material. If the PTFE could be expanded, he thought, the increased amount of air would allow the material to be more lightweight, pliable and cost-effective.
Bob experimented with PTFE in an effort to expand it, first heating up rods of PTFE and then gradually pulling it from either end — but the rods broke every time.
Exasperated, Bob finally gave the rod of PTFE an accelerated pull. To his shock, the PTFE expanded ten times its original size!
He immediately recognized what this meant. More possibilities! The expanded material was 70% air, enabling Gore to fill the ePTFE with complementary materials. The ePTFE was incredibly lightweight yet strong. It was porous and versatile — and the key to introducing Gore’s core technology to many, many more applications. Gore was beginning to test out new concepts and explore new possibilities using the multiple properties of the expanded polymer material.
For nearly the past half-century, Gore has used the transformative discovery of ePTFE to innovate across industries. Our product lines include filters, vents and other solutions to contain liquids, solids and fine particles; vents that protect audio quality in smartphones; textiles woven from ePTFE fiber for space exploration; medical devices, now totaling over 40 million implants worldwide; and laminated fabrics that are windproof, durably waterproof and breathable, giving outdoor adventurers unparalleled comfort and protection.
To date, Gore has developed over 1,000 products. In 1984, Gore’s Medical Products Division was honored when Bill Gore received the Prince Philip Award for Polymers in the Service of Mankind. In 1990, Bill Gore was posthumously inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame. In 2006, Bob Gore was inducted into the United States’ National Inventors Hall of Fame for the invention of ePTFE.
By its very nature, ePTFE is extremely versatile. As long as there’s an opportunity to improve lives by using the unique properties of ePTFE, there will always be new developments, innovations and products from Gore.
A Closer Look at ePTFE
Expanded polytetrafluoroethylene, or ePTFE, is the core material in many of Gore’s solutions. An ePTFE membrane is created when PTFE — a linear polymer consisting of fluorine and carbon molecules — is expanded, setting the PTFE’s molecules into specific formations. Incorporating ePTFE into our products gives them the superior performance qualities that customers expect and applications require.
ePTFE has a vast array of properties ideal for product development, including a high strength-to-weight ratio, biocompatibility, high thermal resistance and many others:
- High porosity
- Low porosity
- Continuous length
- Clean (no outgassing)
- High temperature use
- Low temperature use
- Easily handled form
- High surface area
- Chemically inert
- Low coefficient of friction
- High additive loading capacity
- UV resistance
- Sound transmission
- Electrical conductivity
- Thermal conductivity
- Catalytic activity
- Chemical activity
- Magnetic activity
- Antibacterial functionality
- Odor absorbency
- Radiation resistance
- Selective permeability
- Dimensional stability
- High dielectric constant
- Low dielectric constant
- Varied hardness and stiffness
- Low/high surface energy
- Low/high abrasion resistance
- Non-permeable barrier properties
- Controlled fluid delivery
But why is this single material able to be used in such diverse applications as guitar strings, ski jackets and cables used on the Mars Rover? The answer is that we can tailor ePTFE in a many ways depending on the desired use and functionality.
Due to our expertise in understanding the chemistry, wide range of physical properties and the science behind ePTFE, we can tailor the ePTFE to have:
- varied structures based on the application, such as high or low density, tight or open porosity, thinness or thickness, surface or cross-section orientation, and multiple geometries and asymmetries
- multiple forms, including tapes, membranes/films, tubes, fibers, sheets and rods
- various proprietary modifications that allow us to produce highly valuable end products
Within each PTFE molecule are fibrils and nodes, which connect to form a strong backbone for the material. Our engineers use their PTFE expertise to determine how the nodes and fibrils connect. This alters the architecture of that backbone, thus giving the expanded PTFE certain properties — like greater or reduced airflow — that are optimized for the application.
Another way to think about ePTFE: If you look at a GORE® satellite cable and a jacket containing GORE-TEX® and wonder what they could possibly have in common, remember that each contains a membrane layer, whose inner architecture of nodes and fibrils was built in a very different way: one to transmit information, the other to promote physical comfort.
Applications of ePTFE
The characteristics of ePTFE are broad reaching — it’s resistant to liquid penetration, is biocompatible, has a low dielectric constant, and much more — making it highly valuable in Gore products and applications used in demanding environments. From medical devices implanted in the human body, to clothing worn on expeditions to Mt. Everest, to electronic cables transmitting signals from outer space, Gore products offer the superior performance and reliability that our customers expect and end users require.
Since discovering ePTFE in 1969, Gore has developed over 1,000 products by combining our ePTFE expertise with an understanding of application requirements. With each new application of ePTFE, Gore has a new opportunity to improve lives.