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FLUORINE (symbol F, atomic weight 19)

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 578 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FLUORINE (symbol F, atomic weight 19), a chemical element of the halogen group. It is never found in the uncombined condition, but in combination with calcium as fluor-spar CaF2 it is widely distributed; it is also found in cryolite Na3AlF6, in fluor-apatite, CaF2.3Ca3P2O8, and in minute traces in sea-water, in some mineral springs, and as a constituent of the enamel of the teeth. It was first isolated by H. Moissan in 1886 by the electrolysis of pure anhydrous hydrofluoric acid containing dissolved potassium fluoride. The U-shaped electrolytic vessel and the electrodes are made of an alloy of platinum-iridium, the limbs of the tube being closed by stoppers made of fluor-spar, and fitted with two lateral exit tubes for carrying off the gases evolved. Whilst the. electrolysis is proceeding, the apparatus is kept at a constant temperature of – 23° C. by means of liquid methyl chloride. The fluorine, which is liberated as a gas at the anode, is passed through a well cooled platinum vessel, in order to free it from any acid fumes that may be carried over, and finally through two platinum tubes containing sodium fluoride to remove the last traces of hydrofluoric acid; it is then collected in a platinum tube closed with fluor-spar plates. B. Brauner (Jour. Chem. Soc., 1894, 65, p. 393) obtained fluorine by heating potassium fluorplumbate 3KF•HF•PbF4. At 200° C. this salt decomposes, giving off hydrofluoric acid, and between 230–250° C. fluorine is liberated. Fluorine is a pale greenish-yellow gas with a very sharp smell; its specific gravity is 1.265 (H. Moissan); it has been liquefied, the liquid also being of a yellow colour and boiling at -187° C. It is the most active of all the chemical elements; in contact with hydrogen combination takes place between the two gases with explosive violence, even in the dark, and at as low a temperature as -21o° C.; finely divided carbon burns in the gas, forming carbon tetrafluoride; water is decomposed even at ordinary temperatures, with the formation of hydrofluoric acid and " ozonised " oxygen; iodine, sulphur and phosphorus melt and then inflame in the gas; it liberates chlorine from chlorides, and combines with most metals instantaneously to form fluorides; it does not, however, combine with oxygen. Organic compounds are rapidly attacked by the gas. Only one compound of hydrogen and fluorine is known, namely hydrofluoric acid, HF or H2F2, which was first obtained by C. Scheele in 1771 by decomposing fluor-spar with concentrated sulphuric acid, a method still used for the commercial preparation of the aqueous solution of the acid, the mixture being distilled from leaden retorts and the acid stored in leaden or gutta-percha bottles. The perfectly anhydrous acid is a very volatile colour-less liquid and is best obtained, according to G. Gore (Phil. Trans., 1869, p. 173) by decomposing the double fluoride of hydrogen and potassium, at a red heat in a platinum retort fitted with a platinum condenser surrounded by a freezing mixture, and having a platinum receiver luted on. It can also be prepared in the anhydrous condition by passing a current of hydrogen over dry silver fluoride. The pure acid thus obtained is a most dangerous substance to handle, its vapour even when highly diluted with air having an exceedingly injurious action on the respiratory organs, whilst inhalation of the pure vapour is followed by death. The anhydrous acid boils at 19°.5 C. (H. Moissan), and on cooling, sets to a solid mass at -102°•5 C., which melts at–92°•3 C. (K. Olszewski, Monats. fur Chemie, 1886, 7, p. 371). Potassium and sodium readily dissolve in the anhydrous acid with evolution of hydrogen and formation of fluorides. The aqueous solution is strongly acid to litmus and dissolves most metals directly. Its most important property is that it rapidly attacks glass, reacting with the silica of the glass to form gaseous silicon fluoride, and consequently it is used for etching. T. E. Thorpe (Jour. Chem. Soc., 1889, 55, p. 163) determined the vapour density of hydrofluoric acid at different temperatures, and showed that there is no approach to a definite value below about 88° C. where it reaches the value 10.29 corresponding to the molecular formula HF; at temperatures below 88° C. the value increases rapidly, showing that the molecule is more complex in its structure. (For references see J. N. Friend, The Theory of Valency (1909), p. III.) The aqueous solution behaves on concentration similarly to the other halogen -acids; E. Deussen (Zeit. anorg. Chem., 1905, 44, pp. 300, 408; 1906, 49, p. 297) found the solution of constant boiling point to contain 43.2% HF and to boil at IIo° (75o mm.). The salts of hydrofluoric acid are known as fluorides and are easily obtained by the action of the acid on metals or their oxides, hydroxides or carbonates. The fluorides of the alkali metals, of silver, and of most of the heavy metals are soluble in water; those of the alkaline earths are insoluble. A characteristic property of the alkaline fluorides is their power of combining with a molecule of hydrofluoric acid and with the fluorides of the more electro-negative elements to form double fluorides, a behaviour not shown by other metallic halides. Fluorides can be readily detected by their power of etching glass when warmed with sulphuric acid; or by warming them in a glass tube with concentrated sulphuric acid and holding a moistened glass rod in the mouth of the tube, the water apparently gelatinizes owing to the decomposition of the silicon fluoride formed. The atomic weight of fluorine has been determined by the con-version of calcium, sodium and potassium fluorides into the corresponding sulphates. J. Berzelius, by converting silver fluoride into silver chloride, obtained the value 19.44, and by analysing calcium fluoride the value 19.16; the more recent work of H. Moissan gives the value 19.05. See H. Moissan, Le Fluor et ses composes (Paris, 1900). FLUOR-SPAR, native calcium fluoride (CaF2), known also as FLUORITE or simply FLUOR. In France it is called fluorine, whilst the term fluor is applied to the element (F). All these terms, from the Lat. fluere, " to flow," recall the fact that the spar is useful as a flux in certain metallurgical operations. (Cf. its Ger. name Flussspat or Fluss.) Fluor-spar crystallizes in the cubic system, commonly in cubes, either alone or combined with the octahedron, rhombic dodecahedron, four-faced cube, &c. The four-faced cube has been called-the fluoroid. In fig. 1, a is the cube (loo), d the rhombic dodecahedron (11o), and f the four-faced cube (310). Fig. 2 shows a characteristic twin of interpenetrant cubes. The crystals are sometimes polysynthetic, a large octahedron, e.g., being built up of small cubes. The faces are often etched or corroded. Cleavage is nearly always perfect, parallel to the octahedron. Fluor-spar has a hardness of 4, so that it is scratched by a knife, though not so readily as calcite. Its specific gravity is about 3.2. The colour is very variable, and often beautiful, but the mineral is too soft for personal decoration, though it forms a handsome material for vases, &c. In some fluor-spar the colour is disposed in bands, regularly following the contour of the crystal. As the colour is usually expelled, or much altered, by heat, it is believed to be due to an organic pigment, and the presence of hydrocarbons has been detected in many specimens by G. Wyrouboff, and other observers. H. W. Morse (Prot. Amer. Acad., 1906, p. 587)obtained carbon monoxide and dioxide, hydrogen and nitrogen and small quantities of oxygen from Weardale specimens by heating. He concluded that the gases are due to the decomposition of an organic colouring matter, which has, however, no connexion with the fluorescence or thermo-luminescence of the mineral. Certain crystals from Cumberland are beautifully fluorescent, appearing purple with a bluish internal haziness by reflected light, and greenish by transmitted light. Fluor-spar, though cubic, sometimes exhibits weak double refraction, probably due to internal tension. Many kinds of fluor-spar are thermo-luminescent, i.e. they glow on exposure to a moderate heat, and the name of chlorophane has been given to a variety which exhibits a green glow. The mineral also phosphoresces under the Rontgen rays. Cavities containing liquid occasionally occur in crystals of fluor-spar, notably in the greasy green cubes of Weardale in Durham. A dark violet fluor-spar from WSlsendorf in Bavaria, evolves an odour of ozone when struck, and has been called antozonite. Ozone is also emitted by a violet fluor-spar from Quincie, dep. Rhone, France. In both cases the spar evolves free fluorine, which ozonizes the air. Fluor-spar is largely employed by the metallurgist, especially in lead-smelting, and in the production of ferro-silicon and ferro-manganese. It is also used in iron and brass foundries, and has been found useful as a flux for certain gold-ores and in the reduction of aluminium. It is used as a source of hydrofluoric acid, which it evolves when heated with sulphuric acid. The mineral is also used in the production of opal glass and enamel ware. In consequence of its low refractive and dispersive power, colourless pellucid fluor-spar is valuable in the construction of apochromatic lenses, but this variety is rare. The dark violet fluor-spar of Derbyshire, known locally as " Blue John," is prized for ornamental purposes. It occurs almost exclusively at Tray Cliff, near Castleton. The dark purple spar, called by the workmen " bull beef," may be changed, by heat, to a rich amethystine tint. Being very brittle, the spar is rather difficult to work on the lathe, and is often toughened by means of resin. F. Corsi, the eminent Italian antiquary, held that fluor-spar was the material of the famous murrhine vases. Fluor-spar is a mineral of very wide distribution. Some of the finest crystals occur in the lead-veins of the Carboniferous Limestone series in the north of England, especially at Weardale, Allendale and Alston Moor. It is also found in the lead and copper-mines of Cornwall and S. Devon, notably near Liskeard, where fine crystals have been found, with faces of the six-faced octahedron replacing the corners of the cube. In Cornwall fluor-spar is known to the miners as " cann." Fine yellow fluor-spar occurs in some of the Saxon mines, and beautiful rose-red octahedra are found in the Alps, near Goschenen. Many localities in the United States yield fluor-spar, and it is worked commercially in a few places, notably at Rosiclare in southern Illinois.
End of Article: FLUORINE (symbol F, atomic weight 19)

Additional information and Comments

Of all the elements, fluorine atoms attract electrons more strongly. When fluorine atoms form covalent bonds with other kinds of atoms, are the bonds polar or nonpolar?
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