Hydrogen Fluoride | Uses, Benefits, and Chemical Safety Facts

Hydrogen Fluoride

Hydrogen fluoride is a colorless, corrosive gas or liquid made up of a hydrogen atom and a fluorine atom. When hydrogen fluoride is dissolved in water, it is called hydrofluoric acid.

Hydrogen fluoride is an industrial raw material used in the manufacture of products including refrigerants, gasoline and aluminum. Anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (anhydrous means a chemical contains no water) is the building-block material for the production of fluorine and fluorine containing products such as fluorochemicals, flupropolymers and surfactants.

Uses & Benefits

Industrial/Manufacturing Uses

Hydrogen fluoride is used to make refrigerants, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, gasoline, stainless steel kitchen products, aluminum, plastics, electrical components and incandescent light bulbs (electric light with a wire filament, used in appliances, incubators, portable lighting). Sixty percent of the hydrogen fluoride used in manufacturing is for processes to make refrigerants used in refrigeration, freezer and air conditioning systems.

In laboratories and industrial settings, hydrofluoric acid can be used for etching glass and enamel, removing rust, and cleaning brass and crystal. It also is used in manufacturing silicon semiconductor chips. Hydrogen fluoride also is used as an alkylation catalyst in oil refineries to make high-octane gasoline as well as power nuclear reactors.

Cleaners and Rust Removers

Due to its strong corrosive qualities, a diluted form of hydrofluoric acid is used in some commercial automotive cleaners, rust and stain removers and water-spot removers.

Safety Information

Due to its strong corrosive qualities, a diluted form of hydrofluoric acid is used in some commercial automotive cleaners, and rust and stain removers. Care should be taken when using commercially available products containing hydrofluoric acid, and safety instructions on labels should always be followed. Skin contact or inhalation of hydrofluoric acid can cause moderate to severe health effects.

Hydrogen fluoride and hydrofluoric acid must be used and handled in accordance with applicable risk management practices. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has set guidelines and permissible exposure limits for workers in industries and facilities where hydrogen fluoride substances are used. The OSHA PEL (permissible exposure limit) is 3 parts per million, averaged over an 8 hour work shift.

Answering Questions

What are the uses of hydrogen fluoride?

Sixty percent of the hydrogen fluoride used in the manufacture of refrigerants. Hydrogen fluoride is also used industrially to make products such as gasoline, aluminum, plastics, electrical components such as TVs and computer screens, stainless steel and incandescent light bulbs.

What are the forms of hydrogen fluoride?

Hydrogen fluoride typically refers to a gas, used in the production of refrigerants, high-octane gasoline, aluminum, plastics, electrical components and incandescent light bulbs. When hydrogen fluoride is dissolved in water, it creates hydrofluoric acid, which is used in stainless steel pickling, glass etching, metal coatings, uranium isotope extraction and quartz purification.

Can hydrofluoric acid dissolve bodies like on the TV show Breaking Bad?

No. Hydrofluoric acid can dissolve many materials due to its corrosive nature, but these properties were “grossly exaggerated” on the TV show Breaking Bad. Learn more about this myth on Chemistry World.