hydrogen fluoride, chemical compound, HF, a colorless, fuming liquid or colorless gas that boils at 19.54°C. It is miscible with water and is soluble in benzene, toluene, and concentrated sulfuric acid. Hydrofluoric acid is a water solution of hydrogen fluoride; hydrofluoric acid containing 35.35% hydrogen fluoride by weight is an azeotrope with a constant boiling point of 120°C. Whether gaseous, liquid, or in solution, hydrogen fluoride is a dangerous chemical and must be handled with caution, since it attacks the skin and other tissue. Hydrogen fluoride has a number of properties that distinguish it from the other hydrogen halides. It polymerizes, forming molecules such as H2F2 and H6F6; this explains in part its relatively high boiling point. It is a relatively weak acid. It attacks glass, reacting with the silica, SiO2, to form the gas silicon tetrafluoride, SiF4, and water; this leaves the surface of the glass etched. Major industrial uses of hydrogen fluoride include the synthesis of fluorocarbons (e.g., Freon and teflon) and the production of aluminum fluoride and synthetic cryolite for use in aluminum refining. It is also employed in refining uranium for use as a nuclear fuel, in manufacturing various organic chemicals, in producing stainless steel, and for various other applications. Hydrogen fluoride is produced commercially by heating purified fluorspar (calcium fluoride) with concentrated sulfuric acid to produce the gas, which may be condensed by cooling or dissolved in water. Hydrogen fluoride is available commercially either in an anhydrous (water-free) state or in water solutions of various concentrations. Because it attacks glass, it is usually stored in steel tanks, cylinders, or drums, or, in small amounts, in plastic bottles.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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