LATEST USE FOR DUPONT'S TEFLON: SOCKS THAT HELP FIGHT BLISTERS
Byline: Joanna Ramey
WASHINGTON--Teflon has spread from saucepans to socks. Inventor Bob Gunn has taken DuPont's friction-easing material and woven it into athletic socks. Developed by DuPont and backed by Chipman Union, a sock maker in Union Point, Ga., the new item is called Blister Guards. A full-time inventor and president of Gunn Associates in New York, Gunn already has Odor Eaters to his credit. Eventually, Gunn wants to use Teflon--which reduces friction and thereby reduces the cause of blisters and bunions--in the feet of pantyhose. About 18 months ago, DuPont technicians began conducting friction tests on Gunn's behalf in its application labs in Chattanooga, Tenn., according to Beth Huber, DuPont's marketing communications director. DuPont has applied to the Federal Trade Commission for use of the name in identifying textile products containing the substance--generically called fluorocarbon--that is spun into a yarn. Gunn aims to market the socks by the first half of next year. He said negotiations are under way with Chipman Union, the makers of Adidas socks. Gunn, who already was working on another patent with DuPont--a folding credit card--brought his idea for Teflon socks to the chemical giant 2 1/2 years ago. Like many inventions, the concept was hatched out of a need--new sneakers were causing blisters on his feet during a treadmill workout. "I had a jar of fluorocarbon on my dresser from another project and at night I dipped my socks in the jar," Gunn said. "In theory, blisters are caused by friction, so if you eliminate friction with fluorocarbon, you should eliminate blisters." His crudely treated socks worked during a two-week trial period, he said. Next, with the help of DuPont and Chipman Union, mock socks were produced and worn by football teams at Villanova University, Cornell University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, and the women's field hockey team at UNC. About 80 percent of athletes routinely get blisters, Huber said. DuPont executives would like to see the product tested by a broader spectrum of consumers to determine overall interest, she added. Gunn's socks--with the Teflon fibers interwoven with polyester and cotton in the toes, pads and heels--reduced the incidence of blisters to 8 to 10 percent of the players. The socks can't completely protect against blisters because Teflon doesn't eliminate friction, said Gunn. Nevertheless, he's looking to lessen friction further by adding Teflon to the inside of shoes. "That would help get rid of the other 10 percent," he said. Fluorocarbon was first used more than 60 years ago as a replacement for oil in airplane bearings and has been used in hot gas filtration systems. To consumers, the material marketed by DuPont as Teflon has become widely associated with nonstick cookware, a name recognition Gunn hopes will click in shoppers' minds. The concept of using Teflon in apparel is limitless, he said. "Anyplace where there is chafing or abrasion can use Teflon," Gunn said, suggesting bra straps and biking shorts as possible candidates. Gunn said he expects the socks to retail for $3 to $4. For a five-minute test spot that was featured on QVC about six weeks ago, Chipman Union produced 500 dozen pairs of the antiblister athletic socks, Gunn said.
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