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Moissan, (Ferdinand Frederic) Henri

chemistry fluorine reactive carbon

[mwasã] (1852–1907) French inorganic chemist: first isolated fluorine; pioneer of high-temperature chemistry.

Coming from a poor family, Moissan’s pursuit of education and his enthusiasm for chemistry proved difficult until marriage and a generous father-in-law eased his financial position. After his first successes in chemistry, he held posts in Paris at the university. In the early 1880s he began to experiment on ways to isolate the element fluorine from its compounds. Earlier attempts by and others had shown only that fluorine must be highly reactive, and some attempts had fatal results. Moissan succeeded in 1886 by electrolysis of a solution of KF in HF, at –50° in an apparatus made of platinum and calcium fluoride. Fluorine was isolated at the anode as a yellow gas, and, as the most chemically reactive of all elements, afforded Moissan a rich seam of new chemistry.

Later he explored boron chemistry (he was the first to make pure boron) and he attempted the synthesis of diamond by crystallizing carbon from molten iron under pressure. He was the first to make a range of metal hydrides, which proved to be highly reactive. His interest in high-temperature chemistry led him to devise electric furnaces in which a carbon arc gave temperatures up to 3500°C. In this way another new area of chemistry was opened up and Moissan was able to make synthetic gems such as ruby, and silicides, borides and carbides of metals, as well as metals such as Mb, Ta, Nb, V, Ti, W and U which were then little known. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1906, but did not give the usual lecture, and he died very soon after the ceremony.

Mokae, Zakes (1935–) [next] [back] Mohorovicic, Andrija

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