There's this chemist who writes a blog, and one of his best categories of blog entry is "Things I Won't Work With
." In these entries, he describes substances that are so toxic, explosive, or otherwise dangerous that he refuses to ever work with them, and with good (and entertainingly articulated) reason!
One of my favorite entries is "Sand Won't Save You This Time
", about chlorine triflouride. [Important vocabulary word reading the blog post: hypergolic
. It means: ignites spontaneously on contact, with no heat or other ignition trigger needed.]
Wikipedia has this to say about trying to put out a ClF3 fire: "most general-purpose fire suppression hardware is either incapable of suppressing this oxidation or can aggravate it; ClF3 has been reported to burn sand, asbestos, and other highly fire-retardant materials, reacts violently with water-based suppressors, and oxidizes in the absence of atmospheric oxygen, rendering atmosphere displacement suppressors such as Halon and CO2 ineffective. It ignites glass on prolonged contact." I can see why our blogger won't work with this substance, but his blog post
explains it far better than I, or wikipedia, ever could.