What does fluorine smell like?

Unusual question, I know - and the answer includes “you don’t want to know” and “why in the world do you think you could be smelling fluorine?”

But I have my reasons.

I’m going to try to describe the smells of the halogens I know. I think there is a common sharp, piercing scent or sensation that is common to all of them. I think chlorine smells a bit rotten and ugly. I think bromine smells a bit more woody or nutty. I think iodine smells a bit more earthy like early Spring thaw.

So, I smelled something in a situation where there could have been free fluorine or HF, and it had the piercing commonality I recognize in the bigger quieter halogens, and it additionally had a sort of floral or ethereal note. In this situation I don’t think there was any reason to smell anything besides fluorine compounds. I noted that I did NOT suffer any ill effects. There was a bit of a safety issue there that is getting dealt with.

What say the dopers? Could this possibly have been fluorine?

You don’t say.

We don’t know, and we likely will never know. We only know what burned up nose hairs and fluorinated mucus smell like

Oh, well, now, come on. Chlorine is almost as nasty, and in the same ways, and nearly everybody knows that that smells like.

I had a friend who worked in plants that handled free fluorine, back in the 50’s, and he did talk about the signs it was leaking and, I think, what it smelled like. I just don’t remember. He’s been dead, lo, these ten years.

But there must be people around who know…

It smells like your nose is on fire.

I do know that some nitrogen triodide crystals will clear your sinuses right up…

It could have been fluorine. The one time I smelled it (a gas transfer line hadn’t been properly pumped out before we disconnected it), the closest analogy I could think of was that it smelled a bit like asparagus (seriously), and not as sharp as chlorine. YMMV - just smelled it the one time, and the smell may well depend on the concentration, and I don’t plan to repeat the experiment…

This guy has evidently tried it but his description is less than helpful (a “stench”). He does note it smells decidedly different from chlorine and ozone. But JesstheChemist says “it is hard to describe the smell of fluorine, but it is unpleasant and vaguely smells like a mixture of ozone and chlorine…and remarkably offensive.”

Almost as nasty in the same way a poodle is almost as nasty as a wolf. They can both bite you, but my odds of survival are a little better with the poodle. I did research in a p-chem lab for a couple of years with some nasty chemicals, and fluorine gas and HF acid were the only ones that really scared me.

No, nitrogen triodide is a extremely sensitive contact explosive, that would be dangerous.

It also makes a very loud whooshing sound…

And am the only one that sees Jessthechemist as JESUSthechemist? Not that that wouldn’t be totally cool.

Jesus the chemist – or whatever his name is – calls up ozone as a note in the smell. And I think that is a good way to describe what I smelled. Ozone is sweet, floral. In an itchy, you’re under attack kind of way.

This makes me think I probably actually did smell some fluorine, though at a very low level.

I started shopping for stinkspar but the first couple hits didn’t sound that available. Will go shopping later.

But aren’t you DrDeth?

Very hard to animate undead with their heads blown off.:stuck_out_tongue:

Googling fluorine + smell mostly gets me vague answers like “pungent”, and “strong”, for example:

I did find one slightly more specific anonymous answer of “like chlorine, but sharper”.

Isn’t that the refrigerant used in cars? That smells like fresh cut grass.

In the past they used a fluorine* based *refrigerant, but not straight fluorine.

It has fluorine in it, like water has hydrogen in it. And they’re about as different as water and hydrogen.

This seems very likely, as it would actually produce some ozone on reaction with water, like in the mucous membranes of the nose.
Really, I don’t think many people have smelled ozone either, and better not: it’s about ten times as poisonous as hydrogen cyanide…

I thought you could smell ozone all the time…a big thunderstorm…hanging around somewhere where sparks were flying…I thought THAT unique smell WAS ozone.

Yes. I haven’t ever smelled it in a thunder storm, but working with high voltage equipment and electrostatic machines like van der Graaf generators and Wimshurst machines, or petting cats in the winter, it’s not at all unusual to smell it.

I think smelling tiny traces of extremely toxic substances isn’t that big a deal.