Episode 47: Chlorine Trifluoride
Chlorine Trifluoride. It’s amazing and alarming.
This liquid chemical is so corrosive that it can make practically anything burst into flames on contact.
Fluorine is known as the most powerful oxidizing agent out of all the elements-turns water into oxygen on contact.
undergo or cause to undergo a reaction in which electrons are lost to another species.
Practically impossible to store in a solution.
In the 1930s, scientists Otto Ruff and H. Krug set out to find something easier to handle, but just as reactive.
isolated the compound chlorine trifluoride (ClF3), which was liquid (check!) and even more reactive than fluorine (double check!).
Cheap, wildly explosive and/or flammable.
the only known “safe” way to store CIF3 is to seal it in containers made of steel, iron, nickel, or copper after they’ve been treated with fluorine gas. This creates a thin fluoride layer inside the container, which won’t disturb the CIF3.
CIF3 oxidizes so well that it can ignite things that are otherwise fireproof, even famously flame-retardant asbestos.
example from the 1950s. A ton of CIF3 was accidentally spilled on a warehouse floor, which caused it to burn straight through a foot (30 centimeters) of concrete and three feet (90 centimeters) of gravel. Oh, and in the process, it also released hot, deadly clouds of hydrofluoric acid that corroded everything in its path. There was no way to extinguish it, either. Pouring water (or anything else) on it only fuels the flames in an explosive way. You just have to wait for it to do its thing.