"We thought nothing sticks to Teflon," says chemist John A. Gladysz of the University of Erlangen in Germany. "Au contraire!" In an accidental discovery, his graduate student Long V. Dinh found that certain expensive chemical catalysts glom onto Teflon tape, providing a convenient way to recover them from solutions.
Gladysz and his colleagues study a new class of catalysts that, as Teflon does, contain many fluorine atoms. Suitable for most catalyzable industrial reactions, the compounds are not yet widely used, Gladysz says. In earlier work, his team engineered the fluorine-rich catalysts to precipitate out of cooled solutions, thereby making them easier to collect after use.