What Do Humans Use Fluorite For?

Fluorite, also known as fluorspar, is a mineral composed of calcium fluoride. It commonly occurs in cubic, octahedral and dodecahedral crystals in many different colors including blue, purple, green, yellow, colorless, brown, pink and black. Fluorite has a wide variety of uses that rely on its unique properties.

One of the most common uses of fluorite is in the production of hydrofluoric acid. Hydrofluoric acid has a number of industrial applications including glass etching, stainless steel pickling, aluminum production, uranium fuel production and the manufacture of fluorine gas. Fluorite is crushed into a fine powder and treated with sulfuric acid, producing hydrogen fluoride gas which is dissolved in water to produce hydrofluoric acid.

Fluorite is also used as a flux in the steel and aluminum industries. Flux helps lower the melting point of the metal oxides and remove impurities from the slag. The addition of fluorspar allows for the more rapid production of metal as well as improved quality. Steel flux contains about 60-70% fluorspar while aluminum flux may contain up to 55% fluorspar. The chemical inertness of fluorite makes it an ideal flux material.

The optical properties of fluorite have resulted in the mineral being used extensively in lenses and prisms. Fluorite has very low dispersion, meaning light rays passing through it are subject to minimal splitting into spectral colors. Fluorite also has high transparency to both ultraviolet and infrared light. These optical properties have made fluorite an essential component of telescopes, microscopes and high-end optical lenses.

Fluorite’s ability to resist high temperatures and thermal shock makes it useful as a lining material in refractory applications like furnace linings and kilns. Fluorite prevents corrosion of furnace walls and can increase the performance and lifespan of high-temperature processing equipment. Fluorite powder is pressed into shapes and sintered into a solid protective liner.

In the chemical industry, fluorite is a vital source of fluorine for fluorocarbons. Fluorocarbons are used in devices like air conditioners and refrigerators. Fluorine from fluorite is also used in the production of uranium fuel for nuclear reactors. Fluorine assists in the enrichment of the uranium fuel by converting it to a gas so it can undergo isotope separation.

Fluorite has been a popular ornamental stone used in carvings, figurines and jewelry for thousands of years. The vivid colors and lustrous appearance of fluorite make it a prized collector’s stone. Fluorite is also used to make intricate carvings thanks to its cubical cleavage and softness that makes it easy to work with. The term ‘Blue John’ refers to a banded purple and white variety of fluorite that is mined in the UK.

From the production of essential chemicals to high-tech optical applications, fluorite remains an important industrial mineral and fluorine source with numerous uses that impact people’s everyday lives. As technology evolves, fluorite will continue to find new applications that rely on its distinctive properties.