Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Things I Won't Work With"

I recently discovered a very interesting blog: In the Pipeline. It's a blog about chemistry, written by a professional chemist, and it's very interesting.

But the best feature, by far, is the posts tagged "Things I Won't Work With. It's about chemicals that are so dangerous even this experience chemist won't touch them with a ten-foot pole. They include chlorine azide which is so explosive it requires sheet-iron suits to work with even tiny amounts, isocyanides which just smell bad, dioxygen difluoride which detonates spontaneously at -300 Fahrenheit, and nickel carbonyl which has several different ways to poison you very quickly.

But the scariest? Chlorine trifluoride, ClF3, used in the semiconductor industry. It's among the most powerful oxidizing agents known and among the few that beats oxygen at its own game. It'll burn things that are already ashes. It will set just about anything on fire - even the sand in the sand bucket (which normally will put out any fire). Here's a description he quotes from rocket scientist John Clark:


It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water-with which it reacts explosively.It can be kept in some of the ordinary structural metals-steel, copper, aluminium, etc.-because of the formation of a thin film of insoluble metal fluoride.... If, however, this coat is melted or scrubbed off, and has no chance to reform, the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes.


Scary stuff indeed.

1 comment:

Michael said...

i like the "test engineers" part