Burning the UnburnableChlorine trifluoride's fluorination and oxidation power surpasses the oxidizing power of oxygen, which allows the chemical to ignite materials normally considered fire-safe, such as oxides. Chlorine trifluoride burns asbestos, sand, glass, concrete and flame retardants. Most fire control and suppression systems are ineffective or else actually worsen the resulting fire. Of course, the chemical also ignites human skin and other tissue on contact, producing hydrochloric acid and hydrofluoric acid. Both acids burn human tissue. Hydrofluoric acid selectively activates pain centers and attacks bone, causing potentially lethal poisoning.
Uses of Chlorine TrifluorideThe properties that make chlorine trifluoride so flammable also make it useful. The chemical has applications in nuclear reactor fuel processing, semiconductor production and industrial operations. It is a component a rocket fuels, a powerful industrial cleaner and an etchant. Its primary use is producing uranium hexafluoride, UF6 for nuclear fuel processing and reprocessing:
U + 3 ClF3 → UF6 + 3 ClF