Chemical Poems: Fluorine

Chemical Poems: Fluorine

Author: Mario Markus

To date, 118 chemical elements have been found. Professor Mario Markus, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany, takes a look at each element, presenting a poem based on its natural properties along with a scientific overview of each element.

All 118 poems – as well as some poems about elements that only exist in theoretical simulations – are published in the book Chemical Poems: One On Each Element by Mario Markus. ChemViews magazine will publish a selection of these poems over the next months.




Pale yellow gas. It was isolated by the Frenchman Henri Moissan in 1886, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1906. The name derives from the Latin fluere, to flow.

Fluorine has the highest reactivity among all the elements. It reacts with all of them except helium and neon. Reacting with water and sand, it releases large amounts of heat. Its discoverer Moissan [1] and his wife died due to their work with this element. The chemists Davy and Gay-Lussac, too, were “martyrs” to fluorine.

However, fluorine combined with elements that complete its outer electron shell, is extremely inert. For example, polytetrafluorethylene (Teflon) is used to make artificial blood vessels [2], as well as waterproof textiles (Goretex), non-stick coatings for pans, clothing for astronauts and viscosity reducers in inks [3]. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are components of anesthetics and corticoids. “Freons” (chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs [4, 5]) were formerly used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

[1] G. F. Kunz, Henri Moissan 1907
[2] E Akinci, O Işik, H Tekümit, B Dağlar, N Bozbuğa, N T Oğuş, M Balkanay, A Gürbüz, T Berki, C Yakut, Tex. Heart Inst. J. 1999, 26, 87–89. Link
[3] J. Emsley, Nature’s Building Blocks, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2001. ISBN: 978-0-19-960563-7
[4] T. A. Alston, Nature 2004, 430, 965. DOI:10.1038/432965a
[5] V. Kiernan, New Scientist  1995, 145, 7. Link

The homicidal
blinds or kills
whoever comes near.
He burns rocks
and water.
he wants an electron,
that’s all.

Let us then give him
the pittance that he wants.

Now we see
how calm he becomes,
restoring bones,
shaping veins,
valves, arteries,
avoiding dampness,
shielding astronauts,
helping us to freeze,
to fry,
supressing pain.
At this very moment,
he’s even helping
my ink
to flow.

Professor Mario Markus

Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany.

Mario Markus Chemical Poems; one On Each Element

Chemical Poems – One On Each Element,

Mario Markus,

Dos Madres Press 2013.

ISBN: 978-1-933675-98-5
Perfectbound, 308 pages, English, $30

Interview with Mario Markus:   Poetry and Chemistry,
ChemViews magazine 2013.
DOI: 10.1002/chemv.201300010

The poems have also been published in German in:

See all poems published so far by

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