Fun Facts About Fluorine

Fluorine is a member of the halogen group of elemental gases. Its chemical symbol is F and its atomic number is nine. It is the most electronegative of the halogens and thus, the most reactive of all the elements in the periodic table. Fluorine does not exist in nature as a free element, but it can be isolated through complex electrolysis. It is found in mineral compounds such as fluorite or fluorspar, cryolite, and fluoroapatite. The gas is pale yellow and extremely toxic.

Here are some interesting facts about about Fluorine:

1.      In 1906, the French chemist Ferdinand Frederic Henri Moissan won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in isolating fluorine through electrolysis.

2.      Fluorine reacts violently with almost all elements, organic compounds, and inorganic compounds including water.

3.      Fluorine gas is toxic to living things in trace amounts. Exposure to concentrations of fifty parts per million for a short amount of time can become irritating beyond tolerance for most people. Higher concentrations cause corrosive tissue damage, respiratory damage, and death.

4.      Stable forms of fluorine compounds in small amounts have valuable health benefits. In the 1900’s, corollaries were found between the occurrence of fluoride in community drinking water sources and reductions in the rate of community members’ tooth decay. These corollaries inspired studies that led to the discovery of fluoride’s anti-cavity properties. Water fluoridation is now commonplace for public drinking water supplies in the United States. Stannous fluoride and sodium fluoride are active ingredients in toothpaste, mouth rinse, and many other dental products used to prevent cavities.

5.      When fluorine atoms bond with carbon atoms, a type of compound is formed called a fluorocarbon. These compounds are much less reactive than their cousins, the hydrocarbons. Fluorocarbons are used to create extremely stable polymers such as the nonstick plastic, Teflon.

6.      Chlorofluorocarbons or CFC’s have chlorine bonds in the place of the hydrogen bonds of fluorocarbons. They are commonly known as Freon, a brand name coined by chemical manufacturer DuPont. CFC’s are known to destroy the ozone layer of the earth’s atmosphere. Their use as propellants has thus been phased out worldwide since the 1970’s. These compounds are still used as refrigerants in air conditioners and other appliances, but efforts are in force to find suitable alternatives which do not pose the same destruction.

7.      Fluorine is commercially isolated on a large scale for the separation of uranium isotopes. This process is a necessary step in preparing uranium for use in nuclear reactors and weapons of mass destruction.

8.      The term fluorescence was coined as a response to how light emissions are induced in fluorite by radiating it with lesser wavelengths of ultraviolet light. Fluorescence microscopes widely used in drug tests and infectious disease diagnostics operate on the principles of fluorescence.

9.      Hydrofluoric acid is extremely corrosive and widely used in many industrial applications. One of its more popular used is etching the glass of a light bulb to give softer light.

 Many seasoned chemist have never seen fluorine gas and never will. The dangers and costs of isolating it keep interactions to a minimum, so its wonders are not well known. Fluorine however is a fascinating element. The possibilities of its uses are immeasurable and will continue to be discovered as scientists find safer ways to isolate and study it.