Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) is an inorganic gas, the molecules of which have six fluorine atoms attached to one sulphur atom. It is odorless, colorless, non-toxic and non-flammable. SF6 can dissolve in water and certain other liquids. It is transported in the form of liquefied compressed gas. SF6’s density (6.12 g/L) is higher than that of air (1.225 g/L), at sea level conditions. Sulphur hexafluoride is manufactured by combining pure elemental fluorine with sulphur vapor. This is followed by pyrolysis at elevated temperature. Resultant impurities include the highly toxic sulphur pentafluoride. Hydrofluoric acid, potassium bifluoride and potassium hydroxide are the main components of the upstream and downstream industry of SF6. Key use of SF6 is in the electrical industry, as a gaseous dielectric medium. It is also adopted as a filling for insulated glazing windows and in the casting of magnesium. In medical applications, SF6 is released in the form of a gas bubble to plug retinal hole for repairing retinal detachment. Other uses include as a filler gas in tennis balls, in electrostatic loudspeakers, and in the entertainment industry to deepen human voice.
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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has categorized SF6 as the most potent greenhouse gas to be evaluated. In fact, its global warming potential is 22,000 times higher than that of carbon dioxide. Moreover, it stays in its inert form in the troposphere and stratosphere for long. However, its atmospheric mixing ratio is lower than that of carbon dioxide. Hence, the pace of global warming occurring due to it is slower. Yet, its negative impact on climate cannot be ignored. This has promoted several nations to restrict its applications. SF6’s physiological effects include risk of asphyxia when inhaled in excess and an adverse impact on vocal sound quality. These hazards could prove to be a major deterrent to market growth. Key regional markets in the sulphur hexafluoride industry are USA, EU (European Union), Japan and China. Notable manufacturers in the Chinese sulphur hexafluoride industry include Fujian Shaowu Yongfei, Kanto Denka Kogyo, Shandong Ruihua Fluoride, and Huaneng Fluorin. Concorde Specialty Gases, Praxair Technology, Inc., Specialty Chemical Products, Inc. and Solvay are some of the established vendors in the global space.
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