Fluorides are pervasive in modern technology. Hydrofluoric acid is the most important fluoride synthesized. It is principally used in the production of fluorocarbons and aluminium fluorides.
Hydrofluoric acid has a variety of specialized applications, including its ability to dissolve glass.
Fluoride reagents are significant in synthetic organic chemistry. Due to the affinity of silicon for fluoride, and the ability of silicon to expand its coordination number, silyl ether protecting groups can be easily removed by the fluoride sources such as sodium fluoride and tetra-n-butylammonium fluoride (TBAF).
In biochemistry, fluoride salts are commonly used to inhibit the activity of phosphatases, such as serine/threonine phosphatases.
It may do this by replacing the nucleophilic hydroxyl ion in these enzymes' active sites.
Beryllium fluoride and aluminium fluoride are also used as phosphatase inhibitors, since these compounds are structural mimics of the phosphate group and can act as analogues of the transition state of the reaction.
Sulfur hexafluoride is an inert, nontoxic insulator that is used in electrical transformers.
Uranium hexafluoride is used in the separation of isotopes of uranium between the fissile isotope U-235 and the non-fissile isotope U-238 in preparation of nuclear reactor fuel and atomic bombs.
The volatility of fluorides of uranium and other elements may also be used for nuclear fuel reprocessing.
Fluoropolymers such as polytetrafluoroethylene, Teflon, are used as chemically inert and biocompatible materials for a variety of applications, including as surgical implants such as coronary bypass grafts, and a replacement for soft tissue in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.
These compounds are also commonly used as non-stick surfaces in cookware and bakeware, and the fluoropolymer fabric Gore-Tex used in breathable garments for outdoor use.
Fluoride-containing compounds are used in topical and systemic fluoride therapy for preventing tooth decay. They are used for water fluoridation and in many products associated with oral hygiene.
Originally, sodium fluoride was used to fluoridate water; however, hexafluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6) and its salt sodium hexafluorosilicate (Na2SiF6) are more commonly used additives, especially in the United States.
The fluoridation of water is known to prevent tooth decay and is considered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as "one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century".
In some countries where large, centralized water systems are uncommon, fluoride is delivered to the populace by fluoridating table salt. Fluoridation of water is not without critics, however.
Positron emission tomography is commonly carried out using fluoride-containing pharmaceuticals such as fluorodeoxyglucose, which is labelled with the radioactive isotope fluorine-18 that emits positrons when it decays into 18O.
Numerous drugs contain fluorine including antipsychotics such as fluphenazine, HIV protease inhibitors such as tipranavir, antibiotics such as ofloxacin and trovafloxacin, and anesthetics such as halothane.
Fluorine is incorporated in the drug structures to reduce drug metabolism, as the strong C-F bond resists deactivation in the liver by cytochrome P450 oxidases.
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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011