20 May 2019

Fluorine - the non-stick element

From Elemental, 8:00 am on 20 May 2019

Fluorine has many nasty traits – it is a deadly poisonous gas that is so reactive that it will burn flesh.

On the other hand, fluorine (Fl, atomic number 9) is a vital trace element in the human body and a key ingredient in many pharmaceuticals.

It is commonly found in kitchens, in non-stick Teflon coatings. Curiously, Teflon was discovered accidentally.

Fluorine is one of the chemicals in 1080, or sodium fluoroacetate, which is a naturally occurring compound that has become a key pest control tool in New Zealand, used to kill rats and stoats on conservation land.

Professor Allan Blackman from AUT is at pains to point out that fluorine is not the same as fluoride. Fluorine is an element while fluoride, used in civic water supplies and toothpaste to help prevent dental cavities, is an ion with very different properties.

No caption

Photo: RNZ

You can subscribe to the Elemental podcast for free, at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and RadioPublic.

The Elemental podcast is celebrating 150 years since the periodic table was first published by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.

Find out more about events during the United Nation’s International Year of the Periodic Table.

Nights with Bryan Crump is also celebrating the chemical elements during their Friday night Sonic Tonic and Element of the Week.

Professor Allan Blackman is at Auckland University of Technology.