Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Superacids

After taking a few general chemistry classes several years ago I wondered if the simulated acids in movies were actually possible.  School labs that I worked in never used 'melt-your-hands-off' acids.  General chemistry also teaches of 7 strong acids.  However.. those 7 are nothing compared to the super acids that instantly start boiling skin.

Generally fluorine compounds are the most or least stable.  The strongest acids all contain fluorine.  Similarly the most resistant to corrosion (teflon) also contains fluorine.  This is due to it being the most electronegative element.  Meaning, it either wants to hold onto what it has really badly, or give away what it has really badly.

Part of the reason the acids generally worked with in general chemistry are not so strong is due to the dilution.  High concentrations of HF (one of the 7 taught in chemistry) has been shown to dissolve glass.  I will post a link at the bottom of this post showing a video of 70% hydrofluoric acid (HF) 30% water in a test tube.  The acid immediately begins dissolving the test tube creating a reaction that generates a lot of heat energy (begins boiling at 112 C in 30 s).  It also generates HF gas, which is great fun.

From Wikipedia: Hydrogen fluoride gas is a severe poison that may immediately and permanently damage lungs and the corneas of the eyes. Water solutions (hydrofluoric acid) are a contact-poison with the potential for deep, initially painless burns, with later tissue death. By interfering with body calcium metabolism, the concentrated acid may also cause systemic toxicity and eventual cardiac arrest and fatality, after contact with as little as 160 cm2 (24.8 square inches) of skin.

It eats through gloves, dissolves glass, a lungful will kill you in under 2 minutes, and even limb amputation won't save your life if that 24.8 square inches comes in contact with you.

Here's what I really want to talk about, though.  Fluoroantimonic acid is 20 quintillion times stronger than 100% pure sulfuric acid.  It reacts so quickly and violently that it explodes in nearly any liquid.  One of the few containers that can hold it is teflon.  If it comes into contact with your skin, not only will your skin boil and melt, but you will die in seconds.  It poisons the brain extremely quickly due to fluorine's small size, as it enters the bloodstream extremely quickly.  Iron, gold, lead, it dissolves them all.

Here is the video demonstrating HF's ability to dissolve glass.  The experimenter wanted to dissolve the entire tube but had to abort the operation due to the large amounts of lethal HF gas being released as it began to boil.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lf4vq2UU9hk

15 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you posted the video. It made things a lot easier to understand.

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  2. Your blog just confuses me, I hate that I like reading it.

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  3. That video is the stuff of nightmares...and it reminds me of an early 90s metal band called Acid Bath.

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  4. Looks like fun! but you can't see it clearly :(

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  5. Wow that stuff is serious, the heat of the reaction boiled the acid!

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  6. SUPERACIDS! I learned about some crazy acids when I took chemistry in college. Man, I had to work with some too. Not fun.

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  7. Thanks for the information, I never knew about superacids. Awesome video, too.

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  8. Fuck me that is some scary stuff. That video is crazy

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  9. video sucked. Cool info though :)

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  10. Interesting stuff, I never knew about this. Thanks for your insightful posts as always!

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  11. oh i thought you meant the other acid LOL

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