Accounting for Fluorine: Production, Use, and Loss

Fluorine is an essential element to human health and to the chemical industry. In spite of our dependence on fluorine and fluorine compounds, we have yet to learn to use them wisely. Our fluorine history, which spans about a hundred years, has had negative effects such as hydrofluoric acid pollution caused by aluminum smelters and ozone depletion due to chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emissions. More recent concerns center on greenhouse effects from CFCs, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). In this article we note also that fluorine is a nonrenewable resource that is nonsubstitutable for many purposes. This article tracks fluorine from sources through conversion processes to end uses, most of which are dissipative. We present a stock‐flow model of the fluorine system. Based on this model we consider some possible measures that could be taken to increase the degree of recovery. To mention one example, a large percentage of the world demand for fluorspar could be supplied by the phosphate rock (fertilizer) industry, which currently dissipates a great deal of recoverable fluorine in waste phospho‐gypsum.

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