The main application for hydrogen fluoride is in the manufacture of fluorocarbons. Around 60% of HF manufactured world-wide is used in this area. Since the signing of the Montreal Protocol in September 1987, in which Parties agreed to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), there have been two major developments. Firstly, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) replaced CFCs. HCFCs however still had some ability to deplete the ozone layer and were an intermediate solution to the problem. Manufacturers reacted very quickly to develop hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which are chlorine-free, and have no potential to deplete the ozone layer but have some global warming potential (GWP). The latest generation of hydrogenated fluorinated olefins (HFO) is under development and show already meaningless GWP. There are three main application areas:
The main product for refrigeration applications is HFC 134a, which has proved to be an excellent replacement for CFC 12. Although partly restricted, it is used wherever cooling, freezing, or other heat transfer processes are required. HFOs are currently discussed to be used for similar applications.
- process cooling, food processing, industrial refrigeration
- transport, commercial and domestic refrigeration
A range of plastics, including polyurethane and polystyrene, possesses high insulation properties. The process to produce them is known as “foam blowing”. When “foam blowing” is achieved using fluorocarbons, it provides very high performance and low density insulation foams. HFCs with no ozone depletion potential have replaced CFCs and partly replaced HCFCs. HFOs are also under development for this segment.
The main foam application areas are:
- domestic appliances
- building insulation
- insulation in transport
A range of HFC blends is used in many types of air conditioning systems.
For more information on fluorocarbons, visit www.fluorocarbons.org.