Fluorine do-over at Periodic Table of Videos

For those who have followed Dr. Martyn Poliakoff's Periodic Table of Videos since Xeni's 2008 post, you may recall he didn't have much luck with his first fluorine episode, settling for "just a few bits of glassware and some funny stories." So he backtraced last month and found Eric Hope at the University of Leicester. Dr. Hope @ Leicester is clearly in his element when handling the highly reactive chemical. Watch as cold fluorine gas sets charcoal on fire on contact and burns holes through steel wool:

For those who just want the reactions without the charming scientist banter, here you go.


  1. “the highly reactive chemical”

    What an understatement. As alluded to in the video, even highly experienced chemists (who tend to be blasé about hydrochloric acid, and merely careful with fuming concentrated sulphuric acid) are exceptionally cautious of elemental Fluorine.

    This is how it reacts with exposed flesh.

    What you can’t see is that it will also react with any water present, producing Hydrofluoric acid. This is exceptionally nasty stuff, which will sink readily through flesh, start dissolving your bones and can strip calcium from your bloodstream, causing cardiac arrest.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, chlorine trifluoride is even worse, reacting violently and dangerously with just about every known substance.

    In short: Fluorine chemistry can be fucking scary.

    1. Purplecat, I don’t think your links are working. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but now I’m really curious.

    2. Chlorine trifluoride is terrifying. According to your corante link, it will ignite bricks, sand, and asbestos.

      I have no desire to be anywhere near that.

  2. Back when I was an chem undergraduate – some 24+ years ago *groan* – in one of the labs, the assignment was to choose an element (as long as it wasn’t too expensive, etc.), do some experiments, write a small report, and share the results. The element I wanted to do was Fluorine, but none of professors nor the assistants wanted anything to do with it.

    It really frustrated me…

    …to the point where I changed majors to mechanical engineering.

    They really shouldn’t let 19 year old people decided anything.

  3. I love the sort of hesitant, mincing way he says “Most chemists are really too frightened to work with fluorine” as he works with fluorine.

    OH SNAP.

    1. Yeah. Chemists are so gay. He should totally man up and handle fluorine with cavalier recklessness.

  4. I like this guy. He’s sort of a cross between Magnus Pyke (SCI-ANCE!) and Professah Julius Sumnah Millah.

  5. fluorine schmuorine as long as our emergency eye-wash station is still working we’d just slide open beakers of the shit up and down the lab table at each other like they were pints at the pub

    1. Dear God I hope you’re joking.

      That’s so stupid it’s not even funny. Some things (molten metal, 100KV+ electricity, really f**king strong oxidizers/bases/acids/corrosives) should not be joked about other than in a “can you believe how this moron got himself a Darwin Award” kind of way.

      Fluorine, although a critical part of many modern materials and processes, is scary. It’s as bad as some of the chemicals used in chip fabs, where if they leak, don’t bother running. You’re dead already…

      1. Chlorine Trifluoride is used in chip fabs to strip silicon oxides off the interior of vapor chambers, for example.

        I know a man who was attempting to develop a process using Chlorine Trifluoride.

        Unbeknownst to him, one of the oven vapor chambers he got ahold of had been used to vapor-coat gold vapor, and had been improperly tracked, re-labelled, and re-sold. Gold molecules had diffused into the chamber walls.

        He (luckily) had only a relatively small quantity of ClF3 on hand, in the process, so it only exploded the chamber and partially incinerated his pennies-on-the-dollar secondhand vapor deposition oven, which he then had to dispose of as toxic waste.

        Happily, he’d budgeted for one equipment failure.

        Makes a great “war” story.

  6. OK, has anyone ever studied the link between intellectual brilliance and crazy hair?… Why does one always seem to go with the other? Maybe the crazy hair atom only reacts with the high brain function atom to produce this result…

    Seriously though, that is fascinating/scary stuff!

  7. The periodicity of the elements is actually one of the reasons which I do not completely discount the possibility, at least, of the existence of a supreme deity…but it remains an inchoate reason, a hint only.

  8. So, if I’m extrapolating correctly, according to all that fluoride talk (at the end of the video), I can swish a little fluorine gas in my mouth instead of brushing my teeth?

    Thanks Dr. Science, that will save a lot of time!
    No more cavities!

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