Hydrofluoric Acid

Definition - What does Hydrofluoric Acid mean?

Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is an inorganic acid. It is a solution of hydrogen fluoride in water. Hydrofluoric acid is a colorless solution and highly corrosive. It is capable of dissolving many materials, particularly oxides. It is known as contact-poison for its devastating effects on human tissues.

It serves as precursor to almost all fluorine compounds, including:

  • Pharmaceuticals - fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Diverse materials - PTFE (Teflon)
  • Elemental fluorine itself

It is primarily used in industry for glass etching, metal cleaning and electronics manufacturing.

Corrosionpedia explains Hydrofluoric Acid

Hydrofluoric acid is a colorless inorganic liquid compound that is extremely corrosive to materials. It has distinct ability to dissolve glass, and destroy clothing and human tissue. It can form explosive levels of hydrogen upon contact with many metals. It can easily attack glazes, enamels, pottery, and concrete. Carbonaceous natural material such as wood, leather and rubber is also attacked by hydrofluoric acid. There are some materials that can resist the corrosive action of hydrofluoric acid; a few of them are platinum, wax, polypropylene, polyethylene and Teflon.

Hydrofluoric acid is used for:

  • Refining oil
  • Etching silicon products to produce semiconductors
  • Etching, frosting and polishing glassware and ceramics
  • A rust or stain remover in laundries
  • Production of organofluorine compounds
  • Stonework surfaces
  • Pickling stainless steel
  • Electroplating operations
  • A reagent in chemical reactions
  • Production of fluorides

It produces significant amounts of corrosive fumes when its concentrations rise to 40 to 50 percent.

Since this acid liberates hydrogen gas when in contact with metals and may cause an explosion, hydrofluoric acid should always be stored carefully in plastic bottles.

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