What is PTFE PCB?

When we mention PCB substrate materials, the first one that comes to mind is FR4, favored by designers for its low cost and versatility. However, one key issue is often overlooked—FR4, being a general-purpose material, may fall short in high-frequency performance. So, is there a perfect alternative? The answer lies in polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

PTFE Basic Information

Origins of PTFE

You’ve probably heard of DuPont, the world’s largest chemical manufacturer founded in 1802, dedicated to developing and producing various chemical products and materials such as Nylon, Polyester, and Neoprene. DuPont’s association with PTFE dates back to the 1940s when the company registered the Teflon trademark and began developing PTFE to create a material with high temperature resistance, corrosion resistance, low friction coefficient, and excellent insulation properties.

Origin of PTFE material

Introduction to PTFE Material

PTFE, with the chemical formula (C2F4)n, is a polymer synthesized from tetrafluoroethylene monomers. Its molecules are connected by carbon-fluorine covalent bonds and arranged in a helical or pancake-like structure. This structure allows for tight molecular packing, providing outstanding chemical inertness, mechanical properties, and wear resistance, earning it the nickname “plastic king.”

PTFE and PCB

In PCB manufacturing, PTFE powder is mixed with suitable additives such as fillers and reinforcements, and then processed through techniques like milling, hot pressing, or extrusion to produce PTFE substrate sheets. Subsequently, circuit patterns are formed using conventional PCB manufacturing processes.

PTFE PCB not only support high-frequency signals exceeding 5GHz but also offer excellent thermal stability, setting them apart from conventional materials like FR4 and CEM 3. Moreover, due to their cost-effectiveness, PTFE PCB are considered the perfect alternative to Rogers in the high-frequency domain.

Since PTFE is strongly associated with Teflon, they are often used interchangeably. Hence, when we refer to Teflon PCB, we are essentially talking about PTFE PCB.

Blue PTFE PCB board

Characteristics of PTFE PCB

Electrical Performance

  • Dielectric Constant: Measures the material’s response in an electric field, typically ranging from 2.0 to 2.1 for PTFE.
  • Dissipation Factor: Reflects the material’s ability to absorb energy in an electric field, generally less than 0.0001 for PTFE.
  • Volume Resistivity: Reflects the material’s ability to impede electric current, usually around 10^17 Ω·cm for PTFE.
  • Surface Resistivity: Affects the material’s electrostatic discharge performance, typically around 10^15 Ω·cm for PTFE.
  • Breakdown Electric Field Strength: Provides excellent tolerance to PTFE substrates under high voltage, usually above 60 kV/mm.

With these excellent electrical performance parameters, PTFE PCB possess unique advantages in the high-frequency signal domain, widely applied in 5G networks, aerospace, communications, radar systems, and more.

Thermal Performance

  • Thermal Conductivity: Ability of the material to conduct heat, usually between 0.25 and 0.35 W/m·K for PTFE.
  • Coefficient of Thermal Expansion: Represents the ratio of material size change to its original size with temperature variation, typically between 90 and 135 x 10^-6 /°C for PTFE.
  • Thermal Diffusivity: Measures the material’s response rate to heat, typically between 0.1 and 0.15 mm²/s for PTFE.
  • Glass Transition Temperature: Temperature at which the material transitions from a solid to a pliable state upon heating, usually between -100°C and -50°C for PTFE.

Based on these thermal performance parameters, PTFE PCB can operate stably even in extreme temperature environments, extending the lifespan of electronic components and expanding their application range.

Reliability

PTFE boasts excellent chemical resistance, capable of resisting corrosion and erosion from many chemicals, including acids, alkalis, solvents, and corrosive gases. Additionally, PTFE PCB exhibit good mechanical properties, including high strength, impact resistance, and wear resistance, making them highly sought after in industries prone to chemical corrosion and demanding high physical performance from PCB, such as the automotive sector.

Manufacturing Process

While PTFE offers unique advantageous characteristics, it also presents manufacturing challenges. Its excellent non-stick properties, suitable for various applications, also complicate copper layer adhesion during PCB fabrication. Manufacturers typically need to introduce additional materials like ceramics or glass fibers to enhance the mechanical stability and heat resistance of PTFE PCB. Additionally, these extra materials may significantly impact the budget compared to standard FR4, especially for projects not particularly reliant on PTFE’s high-performance features.

PTFE vs. FR-4 vs. Rogers

When selecting substrate materials, considering cost, performance, and application is crucial. Among numerous substrate materials, PTFE, FR-4, and Rogers are the options most commonly compared by users. To help you compare them more intuitively, TechSparks has prepared a simplified table:

PropertyPTFEFR-4Rogers
Dielectric Constant2.0 – 2.14.0 – 4.83.48 – 10.2
Dissipation Factor0.001 – 0.0020.02 – 0.050.002 – 0.004
Thermal StabilityHighMediumHigh
Flexural StrengthLowMedium High
Chemical ResistanceExcellentGeneralExcellent
ApplicationHigh-frequency RF circuits, such as antennas, microwave transmission lines, etc.Low-frequency and medium-frequency circuits, such as power circuits, control circuits, etc.High-frequency high-speed circuits, such as microwave communication systems, radar systems, etc.
CostHighLowHigh

Ending

In this article, we have focused on the PTFE material and the series of advantages it brings when combined with PCB. Through a detailed discussion of PTFE’s characteristics and performance, we can clearly see its outstanding performance in the high-frequency application field. In contrast, we have compared FR-4 and Rogers to highlight PTFE’s superiority in specific application scenarios.

In summary, PTFE, as an excellent substrate material, demonstrates outstanding performance and reliability in the high-frequency domain. If your project requires dealing with high-frequency signals and other special requirements, consider boldly choosing PTFE—it will provide robust support and excellent performance for your design.

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