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Hydrofluoric acid has a variety of uses in industry and research. It is used as a starting material or intermediate in industrial chemistry, mining, refining, glass finishing, silicon chip manufacturing, and in cleaning.
In a standard
process known as
is alkylated with low-molecular-weight
(primarily a mixture of
) in the presence of the strong acid
derived from hydrofluoric acid. The catalyst protonates the alkenes (propylene, butylene) to produce reactive
, which alkylate isobutane. The reaction is carried out at mild temperatures (0 and 30 °C) in a two-phase reaction.
Production of organofluorine compounds
The principal use of hydrofluoric acid is in
are prepared using HF as the fluorine source, including
Production of fluorides
Most high-volume inorganic fluoride compounds are prepared from hydrofluoric acid. Foremost are Na
, and AlF
. A molten mixture of these solids serves as a high-temperature solvent for the production of metallic
. Given concerns about fluorides in the environment, alternative technologies are being sought. Other inorganic fluorides prepared from hydrofluoric acid include
Etchant and cleaning agent
Wet etching tanks
In metalworking, hydrofluoric acid is used as a
to remove oxides and other impurities from
because of its limited ability to dissolve steel.
It is used in the
industry as a major component of
buffered oxide etch
, which are used to clean
. In a similar manner it is also used to
by reacting with
to form gaseous or water-soluble silicon fluorides. It can also be used to polish and frost glass.
+ 4 HF →
(g) + 2 H
+ 6 HF →
+ 2 H
A 5% to 9% hydrofluoric acid gel is also commonly used to etch all ceramic dental restorations to improve bonding. For similar reasons, dilute hydrofluoric acid is a component of household rust stain remover, in
in "wheel cleaner" compounds, in ceramic and fabric rust inhibitors, and in water spot removers. Because of its ability to dissolve iron oxides as well as silica-based contaminants, hydrofluoric acid is used in pre-commissioning boilers that produce high-pressure steam.
Because of its ability to dissolve (most) oxides and silicates, hydrofluoric acid is useful for dissolving rock samples (usually powdered) prior to analysis. In similar manner, this acid is used in
to extract organic fossils from silicate rocks. Fossiliferous rock may be immersed directly into the acid, or a
film may be applied (dissolved in
), which adheres to the organic component and allows the rock to be dissolved around it.
Diluted hydrofluoric acid (1 to 3 %wt.) is used in the
in a mixture with other acids (HCl or organic acids) in order to stimulate the production of water, oil, and gas wells specifically where sandstone is involved.
Hydrofluoric acid is also used by some collectors of antique glass bottles to remove so-called 'sickness' from the glass, caused by acids (usually in the soil the bottle was buried in) attacking the soda content of the glass.
Offset printing companies use hydrofluoric acid to remove unwanted images from printing plates. Felt-tip markers called "deletion pens" are available to make the process safer for the worker.
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