Fluorine is used in a wide variety of industrially important compounds. It was discovered in 1529, but first isolated by Henri Mossian (1852–1907) in Paris in 1866. He added potassium hydrogen fluoride to liquid hydrogen fluoride and then passed an electric current through the solution. By carrying out the electrolysis in a U-tube made of platinum-indium alloy with electrodes of the same material, Mossian obtained fluorine gas. The fluoride solution has a very electrical resistance and a heavy current is needed to bring about electrolysis. The passage of this currents heats up the apparatus, so the cell has to be cooled.
Fluorine salts, known as fluorides, were used for centuries in welding metals and for frosting glass before the element itself was isolated. Fluorine is used in a wide variety of industrially important compounds. It is also used to make uranium hexafluoride, needed by the nuclear power industry, and sulfur hexafluoride insulating gas for high-power electricity transformers, and to treat polythene to make it impermeable to solvents.
Related category INORGANIC CHEMISTRY
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