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Chlorine trifluoride (CIF3) was first synthesized in the 1930s and is one of the most oxidizing and reactive halogen fluorides known. In fact, with the exception of elemental fluorine, CIF3 may represent one of the most oxidizing and reactive materials in existence. Active research and commercial use of CIF3 began in the late 1940s, and CIF3 has been utilized in such diverse applications as military weapons usage, rocket fuel oxidant, nuclear fuels processing, oil well rod cutting, mineral analysis, and electronics manufacturing equipment cleaning. Such fluoride compounds present significant toxic, oxidizing, highly reactive, and environmental challenges in their manufacture, delivery, customer use, handling, disposal treatment, and emergency response. Air Products has been the primary manufacturer of CIF3 in North America for about 40 years, and CIF3 represents one of the strongest oxidizing and highest reactivity materials that Air Products handles worldwide. However, little information has been available in public literature or the industry regarding its oxidizing potential and reactivity strength with specific materials it may routinely or accidentally come in contact with. Therefore, Air Products conducted extensive release testing to expose various materials of construction (metals, plastics, and elastomers), building materials, personal protective equipment, and other common materials to both vapor and liquid phase releases of CIF3. This paper discusses the synthesis, hazards, varied uses, and major incidents involving CIF3. For example, one major CIF3 liquid spill accident from the 1960s is discussed where an eyewitness stated, “The concrete was on fire!” The paper details controlled release exposure testing methods Air Products employed, results, and lessons learned regarding improved handling and usage recommendations for CIF3 suppliers and customers. For example, a significant potential hazard was discovered regarding use of a safety shower if a person's clothing was exposed to CIF3 liquid, which caused Air Products to change their Material Safety Data Sheet and Product Safety hazards training.
chlorine trifluoride, release, testing, applications, properties, hazards, handling, usage, MSDS, PPE
Process Safety Engineering Associate, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Allentown, PA