Nastiest chemical ever (Hypergolic with test engineers, asbestos, sand...)

In case you don’t know, ‘hypergolic’ means it burns on contact: If something is hypergolic with water, that means it burns on contact with water, like pure sodium does. If something is hypergolic with wood, sand, asbestos, and cloth, that means it is the devil’s own urine, also known as chlorine trifluoride.

Sand won’t save you this time:

Josef Mengele didn’t frighten the Nazis. This stuff did.

Asbestos is nasty enough when it’s quietly shedding needle-like fuzz to enter your lungs and destroy them from the inside. I can only imagine what the smoke coming off of burning asbestos would do to you. And burning bricks is just wrong.

But that isn’t the last of it:

Hydrofluoric acid is massively nasty. It isn’t as nasty as chlorine trifluoride, but it has its moments:

So it gets on you and you don’t even notice. Eight hours later you’re in excruciating pain and it’s eating away at your bones. That is what chlorine trifluoride likes to throw off.

My closing remarks will be from John Clark, someone who attempted to use it as rocket fuel:

I love chemistry.

I was already giggling at the prospect of a sand castle fire, then I read the MSDS(pdf) and just lost it when I got to this line in General Protection:

It’s funny, because I read that exact entry the other day. I got turned onto the blog when the C&EN blog linked to his discussion of the dustup in OPRD. When I found that I laughed my head off. Everyone make sure to check the PDF; it’s probably the first safety bulletin I’ve seen involving burning chicken breast.

I’m pretty sure cilantro has this stuff beat.

Favorite line: “Tissue destruction proceeds under
toughened coagulated skin resulting in deep ulcers, slow healing, and scarring.”

Mon Dieu.

Is it bad that I really really REALLY want to get my paws on a jug of this stuff just to see what it will and will not burn?

What do you store it in?

you’d probably need magnetically isolated bottles, like what they use to store Antimatter on ST-TNG :wink:

hmm, combine this compound with antimatter… <evil grin>
“Instant Antimatter, just add water” :wink:

I worked for a chemical company that handled HF on a fairly regular basis. The cylinders were steel, and had been passivated by allowing a small amount of HF into the cylinder. It created a metal-fluoride film on the inside which protected the steel and prevented internal corrosion.

We looked at storing ClF3 at our facility and had some general safety training on storage and transport of it. It’s every bit as nasty as you’ve heard. We decided we didn’t want the stuff on the premises, and we stored some pretty nasty stuff otherwise, like silane, HF, SO2 and bulk chlorine. This stuff was just too risky.

On the bright side, this stuff can’t be at all persistent. So yeah, if you spill it, the short-term effects will be ugly indeed, but once the fireworks are over, you can probably move back in without worrying about residue.

It seems ironic that one of the treatments for skin contact with this wildly dangerous stuff is Bactine. You may remember this as the home first-aid stuff in a white bottle with green cap that Mom would squirt on a skinned knee.

(bolding mine)

If you need treatment with a compound invented by Zephiran Cockran you know its bad :slight_smile:

Everything; nothing.

Aside from the fact that this stuff sounds like what Xenomorphs bleed, exposure to fluorine compounds is especially insideous because it is biochemically poisonous, and can kill you in concentrations far below those that produce obvious burns.

If you manage to kill yourself with this stuff in a way that doesn’t produce obvious burns, you’re clearly not using it right.

Your eulogy: “He was such an idiot, he couldn’t even burn himself with ClF[sub]3[/sub].”

The irony is even crueler if your funeral plans specify cremation.

Most likely, a teflon coated lecture bottle, or a tanker if your using it to fluorinate on a large scale. This is standard stuff to fluorine chemists. On average, fluorine chemists have fewer fingers than the general population.

Yea, but it produces hydrofluoric acid which won’t improve the situation a whole lot.

So THIS is what the Alien’s blood is made of.

One of my first real jobs while in collge was working admin at a specialty chemical manufacturer. The first thing they told me when I got there was ‘death is a possibility every day when you come to work, but here’s our safety training to help you be prepared in case of a chemical release!’ Once every so often they’d run evacuations drills, siren wails that’d signify there was a chemical release in the area as some of the chemicals were odorless and dangerous. I was also the web designer reading over the MSDSs and chemical names made my head spin and skin crawl. Unless you were a chemist or a one of the handlers, you really didn’t want to go production side alone.

One of the most publicized safety notices was over pentaborane(1950s high energy rocket fuel) that still may be laying around in various facilities.

Whatever you do, just don’t lick the chemical to identify what to do :slight_smile:

I think that Thionyl Chloride could give this stuff a run for the money. It’s incredibly corrosive and has been known to eat its way through Teflon (which will stand up to Hydrofluoric Acid). It causes blistering on the skin and, if inhaled, causes edema, even in tiny quantities. A spil of 2 milliliters of this stuff – that’s the amount in one of those inner contains in a package of “Krazy Glue” (the tiny sliver of a tube closed with the pin-cap) — caused the evacuation of an entire building at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
What would you use something like this for? It turns out that it’s one of the few substances you can dissolve neodymium in and still have a large gain profile and no absorption, for building liquid neodymium lasers.
But in order to dissolve the rare earth ion, you first have to make the Thionyl Chloride an aprotic acid, by adding compounds to it. Making it acidic enabled it to eat through seals, which didn’t make people working with it feel comfortable.

Highly acidic, corrosive, causing edema in small quuantities. About the only way it could be worse is if it was radioactive.

So damned if they didn’t do that, too. If you add uranium salts to it, you get an improvement in the fluorescent yield of your laser. Although it does make it radioactive.
Edited to add:
From the Wikipedia page:

But then, HF isn’t exactly the most long-lived of compounds, either.

It’s much the same deal as with radioactive materials: The most reactive stuff is the most dangerous, in the short term at least, but because it’s so reactive it doesn’t stick around for long. The things that last for a really long time, you almost never have to worry about, since they’re so slow to do anything.