Flourine (F) has a special place in science because it is the most reactive of all the elements, and participates in almost all inorganic and organic chemical reactions. The reactions exclude oxygen, neon, krypton and helium. Its name has originated from the French word “fluere,” meaning to flow, because it allowed metals “to flow.” This deadly element was discovered and isolated by a French chemist, Henri Moissan, in 1886, for which he received the 1906 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Fluorine has an atomic number of 9, an atomic weight of 18.998403, a specific gravity of 1.108, a boiling point of -188.14°C, and a melting point of -219.62°C. When it combines with water, metals, carbon and other substances, it burns and fluoresces. It is extremely flammable and highly corrosive. With water, it produces hydrofluoric acid, one of the highly corrosive products of fluorine.
Fluorine is the lightest among the halogens, which include chlorine, iodine and bromine, to name some. It has a characteristic pungent odor, and is pale yellow in color. Previously, it could not be isolated from any of its compounds, but Moissan did this through “electrolysis of dry potassium hydrogen fluoride and anhydrous hydrofluoric acid.”
Fluorine is a halogen and is widely distributed in combination with other substances, such as in fluorspar (CaF) and cryolite (Na2AF6). It could be isolated using electrolysis with a “solution of potassium hydrogen fluoride in anhydrous hydrogen fluoride.”
Although it is a dangerous element by itself, fluorine, in combination with other substances, has its own usefulness in the field of science. Fluorine, in the forms of sodium fluoride and sodium monofluorophosphate, is added to toothpaste and drinking water to help in the prevention of tooth decay. Calcium fluoride crystals are used in the construction of infrared lenses and other bulbs. In the form of uranium hexafluoride, fluorine also plays a major role in processing nuclear fuel.
It is used too in the manufacture of high-temperature plastics, such as Teflon. It has been originally used as a refrigerant in air-conditioning units in the form of chlorofluorocarbons, but these products were banned because of their dangerous depletion of the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from the deadly rays of the sun.
Fluorine, just like any substance here on Earth, has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is up to man to use it to his own advantage and progress. After all, science is there to develop the world into something progressive but safe for the human race.