Who Discovered Fluorine?
Fluorine was discovered by Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1771 and recognized as a halogen in 1825. Because fluorine is too active, it only existed as a compound and all attempts to isolate the element were unsuccessful. It caused the death of early fluorine chemists due to it’s highly toxic nature, which made many to call it the “Tiger of Chemistry”. The word fluorine is from the Latin word “fleure” which means to flow.
Fluorine is the 13th most abundant element in the earth’s crust and the most reactive of all elements to the extent that it even forms compounds with noble gases. Henri Moissan, a French chemist, attempted to isolate fluorine in 1886. Since platinum was one of the few substances that could probably resist fluorine, he built an equipment from platinum and lowered the temperature to 50° Fahrenheit so that he could reduce fluorine’s reactivity.
How he isolated fluorine?
He then passed an electric current through a solution of potassium fluoride in hydrofluoric acid. In doing so, he achieved his aim of finally isolating fluorine. Fluoride and it’s ions were oxidized at the positive electrode (anode) producing fluorine gas. Moissan made a complete study on the properties of fluorine and it’s reaction with other elements.
Its useful in fighting tooth decay
In 1906, Henri Moissan received the Nobel prize in chemistry but died shortly after that, probably from fluorine poisoning. Because fluorine ion enables the teeth to become resistant to decay, it is added to our tap water in the form of sodium fluoride (SnF2) and in toothpaste. The highly reactive hydrogen fluoride is also used for frosting glass light bulbs.