Gore-Tex Inventor Realized Something Making Plumber's Tape

Robert W. Gore's resulting product is now used in medical devices and guitar strings
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 20, 2020 10:17 AM CDT
Gore-Tex Inventor Realized Something About Plumber's Tape
Robert W. Gore died Thursday at 83.   (Eric Crossan/W.L. Gore & Associates via AP)

Robert W. Gore, whose invention of what created the breathable-yet-waterproof fabric known as Gore-Tex revolutionized outdoor wear and helped spawn uses in numerous other fields, has died. He was 83. Gore, who was president of W.L. Gore & Associates for almost 25 years and company chairman for 30 years, died Thursday after a prolonged illness, the AP reports. Gore discovered a new form of a polymer in 1969 at a company lab in Newark, Delaware. His father, who began the company, asked Bob Gore to research a new way to manufacturer plumber's tape at a low cost using PTFE, commonly known as DuPont's Teflon. The son figured out that by stretching PTFE with a sudden yank, the polymer expanded by 1,000%. The resulting product, known as ePTFE, created a microporous structure. The introduction of Gore-Tex technology came seven years later.

"It was truly a pivot point in this company’s history," W.L. Gore & Associates’ chief technology officer said last year, "without which we would be much less significant of an organization than we are today." The membrane within Gore-Tex fabric has billions of pores smaller than water droplets, leading to waterproof but breathable raincoats, shoes, and other clothing. The patents ultimately led to countless other uses with medical devices, guitar strings, and in space travel, the company said. Gore was born in Utah to Bill and Vieve Gore, who both founded the company in 1958. Bill Gore had previously joined DuPont's workforce and ultimately came to Delaware. Bob Gore succeeded his father as the company’s president and CEO in 1976. Gore and his family contributed funds for buildings and engineering laboratories at the University of Delaware.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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