I am currently reading an article on the Internet which has the phrase: "Teflon just flakes in a solution". It is in fact part of the following longer sentence, which I think would help to explain its meaning:

"Post-it Notes were once a scientific curiosity, Teflon just flakes in a solution and penicillin contamination in a petri dish."

Now overall what I understand is that this sentence talks about the circumstances of three scientific discoveries. The first (post-it notes) and the third (penicillin) are not hard to understand. The second, however, is what I dont get.

I have been trying to search on the web for meanings of the word "flake", but none have the form "flake in". So I guess I have two questions:

1/ What does "flake in" mean?

2/ What does "Teflon flakes in a solution" mean in the above sentence?

Thank you very much for your help.

1 Answer 1


In your example, flakes is a noun, not a verb.

The sentence as written reads:

Post-it Notes were once a scientific curiosity, Teflon just flakes in a solution and penicillin contamination in a petri dish.

It could be expanded as:

Post-it Notes were once a scientific curiosity.

Teflon was once just flakes in a solution.

Penicillin was once contamination in a petri dish.

When some chemicals are mixed together (forming a solution) they react to form flakes of more solid material that does not dissolve in the solution. Those reagents can be combined under different conditions to form the useful Teflon coating.

"Flake in" refers to small pieces of material that do not dissolve in the liquid around them.

"Teflon flakes in a solution" refers to pieces of Teflon sitting in a mixture of liquids.

  • I would up-vote this if you added an explanation regarding the practice of removing repeated phrases within subsequent clauses, in this case the "was/were once" portion.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 14:15
  • @cobaltduck It's the internet. It could be just a lack of proofreading.
    – Laurel
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 22:35
  • Great explanation. Why didn't I think of that! Thanks.
    – David
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 1:15
  • I guess part of the difficulty was my lack of understanding of how Teflon was actually created (accidentally of course). The historical account on the internet only mentions that "Plunkett attempted to make a new chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant" and this involves some form of gas, but does not say anything about a liquid (i.e. solution in the above sentence). Just curious, you seem to know about this solution, do you have a reference to back it up?. Thanks.
    – David
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 1:21
  • I was just describing the imagery created by the sentence you posted. I haven't researched the historical details of the discovery of Teflon. Gases can be dissolved in a liquid (fish breathe oxygen dissolved in the ocean, carbon dioxide bubbles form in soda pop as the gas comes out of the solution) and technically you can have a solution of gasses instead of liquids. Snow flakes would be an example of solid flakes in a gaseous nitrogen-oxygen solution.
    – jejorda2
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 12:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.