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Hydrogen Fluoride: Uses & Formula

Instructor: John Williams
Hydrogen fluoride is a chemical molecule formed from the covalent bonding of hydrogen and fluorine atoms. This article discusses the many uses of hydrogen fluoride, as well as the potential dangers of exposure to this chemical.

Introduction

Hydrogen fluoride is a molecule that is formed from combining a hydrogen atom with a fluorine atom. It is a highly valuable molecule in industry, but is also a very dangerous chemical for biological systems. This makes hydrogen fluoride a molecule of interest for both commercial and health reasons. Let's discuss hydrogen fluoride and the properties that make it such an important chemical.

Chemical Structure of Hydrogen Fluoride
hydrogen fluoride

Structure and Chemical Properties of Hydrogen Fluoride

Hydrogen fluoride is formed through covalent bonding (electron sharing) between a hydrogen atom and a fluorine atom. Hydrogen contains one electron, and fluorine requires one electron to become stable, so the bond forms readily when the two elements interact. This gives hydrogen fluoride a simple chemical formula of HF. Above room temperature, hydrogen fluoride is a gas, but can be condensed into solid crystals when the temperature is lower than roughly 20 degrees Celsius.

Hydrogen fluoride has a molar mass of 20 grams per mole. (In other words, one mole of hydrogen fluoride will weight approximately 20 grams. It is miscible, or will dissolve. Finally, hydrogen fluoride is also a weak acid, meaning that if it is added to water, it will only partially break down and release hydrogen ions.

Uses of Hydrogen Fluoride

Hydrogen fluoride is used primarily as a precursor or reactant for making other commercially important chemicals. For example, hydrogen fluoride is often used to produce aluminum, which is a metal element. It is also used in the separation of uranium isotopes, which are radioactive versions of the uranium element. HF can be used to produce stainless steel and in the production of petroleum (oil) products. Finally, while not as common as other compounds, hydrogen fluoride may be added to water to provide fluoride ions in municipal water supplies to assist with dental health.

Dangers of Hydrogen Fluoride

HF is corrosive when it comes in contact with tissues or water. This means that it will break down and destroy different materials on contact, including human skin and other organs. Therefore, hydrogen fluoride exposure is a serious issue. Effects of hydrogen fluoride contact include the following:

Respiratory damage, if inhaled (lung tissue will be severely affected)

• Burns can occur if HF contacts the skin or eyes

• Thyroid damage can occur, causing a reduction in thyroid hormone

• Increased damage to the liver and kidneys, which are responsible for clearing poisonous materials from the system

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