Perfluorocarbons, also known as fluorocarbons or PFCs, are man-made organo-fluorine compounds that contain only carbon and fluorine. Compounds with prefix perfluoro- are hydrocarbons whose all C-H bonds have been replaced by C-F bonds. Perfluoro-alkanes are very stable because of the strength of the three C-F single bonds, one of the strongest in organic chemistry. Under normal environmental circumstances, they are typically, odorless, colorless, non-flammable, inert gases. PFCs are not found in nature. Fluorocarbons were prepared by reaction of fluorine with hydrocarbon, which is known as direct fluorination. Fluorine can easily break C-C bonds; smaller perfluorocarbons are typically formed by direct fluorination. The large scale production of fluorocarbons was brought about by introduction of the Fowler process. In this process, the source of fluorine used is cobalt trifluoride.
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Mainly, PFCs are used in electronics sector (semi-conductors production) and as refrigerants. Occasionally, they are also used in fire extinguishers and some cosmetics. Moreover, PFC’s physical properties gives them many diverse applications, such as perfluorocarbon tracer, Organic Rankine cycle, liquid breathing, blood substitute, anesthetics etc. Use of PFC Tracer in oil reservoirs is mapping by injecting a PFC down one bore hole and measuring the concentration at neighboring boreholes. This helps geologists to trace an image of the reservoir. Organic Rankine cycle works on the principle of using lower temperatures where heat is converted into useful work, which can itself be converted into electricity. Some such applications are biomass combustion, industrial waste heat, geothermal heat, solar ponds etc. PFC liquids have substantially varying properties; however, they all have high solubility for respiratory gases. In fact, these liquids transport more oxygen and carbon dioxide than blood, which justifies their use in liquid ventilation. Perfluorocarbon-based oxygen carriers (PFBOC) are used to mimic and fulfill some functions of biological blood. Its target is to provide a substitute to blood transfusion.
Fluorocarbons, particularly chlorofluorocarbons, became commonplace in the 20th century, but they are being phased out because of their ozone depletion effects. When PFCs are released in the environment, they are not considered likely to cause harm in their vicinity. But, on a global scale, they are greenhouse gases adding to global warming. A major source of atmospheric perfluorocarbons has been PFCs produced as a by-product of the electrolysis process in the aluminium smelting industry. The OECD and UN Environment Program has run a new Global PFC Group whose chief functions are to raise awareness and share information about (1) scientific insight, (2) risks and hazards, (3) regulatory approaches being taken in different parts of the world.
North America accounts for the largest market for artificial blood substitutes market followed by Europe. Discussions were held in 2009 International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2). The resulting group consented, that in order to lower the levels of perfluorinated sulphonates and perfluorinated carboxylic acids, to think about regulatory tactics and management programs. In North America and Europe, new industrial releases of Perfluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid (PFOS) has also fallen dramatically since numerous companies signed up to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program. It is expected that PFCs and its precursors will be eliminated from emissions and products in semiconductor industry in near future.
Some of the key players in perfluorocarbon market in medical industry include Alliance Pharma, FluoroMed L.P., Exfluor Research Corporation, F2 Chemicals Ltd., Sanguine Biosciences, Tenax Therapeutics.
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Some of the key players in perfluorocarbon market in semiconductor industry that have signed up with EPA program are Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Conexant, HP Development Company L.P., IBM, Micron Technology Inc., Sony Corporation, etc.