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Nonmetallic chemical element, chemical symbol F, atomic number 9. The lightest halogen, it is the most reactive element, forming compounds with all others except helium, neon, and argon (the lighter noble gases). Its only valence is 1, in F (the diatomic molecule) and fluorides. A toxic, pale yellow gas with a pungent odour, it can be produced only by electrolysis under special conditions. Its chief source is fluorite; it also occurs in cryolite, fluorapatite, seawater, bones, and teeth. Hydrogen fluoride (HF) is a raw material for many other fluorides. Its water solution, hydrofluoric acid, is used to clean metals and to polish, etch, or frost glass. Other fluorides are useful catalysts and raw materials. Sodium fluoride (NaF) is added to water and tin fluoride (SnF) to dental-care products to reduce dental caries (seefluoridation of water). Fluorocarbons are hydrocarbons in which some hydrogen atoms have been replaced by fluorine atoms; examples include Freons and Teflon.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on fluorine, visit Britannica.com.