Fluorite, also called fluorspar, is a mineral that consists of the compound calcium fluoride (calcium and fluorine). It is a common mineral and is often found in association with metallic minerals. It is also a common mineral in granite and other igneous rocks. It is estimated that the largest deposits of fluorite occur in South Africa, Mexico and China. China currently produces the largest amount of this mineral in the world. The following are some of the most common applications of fluorite.
Uses of fluorite
Naturally occurring fluorite is graded into three categories for commercial use. The first grading is known as metallurgical grade (60-85% calcium fluoride) and this is commonly used in steel production to lower the melting point of the raw materials, which allows for impurities to be removed. This grade is also used in the production of aluminum. The next grade is known as ceramic grade (85-95% calcium fluoride) and this is used to produce enamel, cooking utensils and certain types of glass. The highest grade is called acid grade fluorite (97%+ calcium fluoride) and this is reacted with sulfuric acid to make hydrofluoric acid and hydrogen fluoride. This grade is also used in the production of compounds needed in aluminum smelting.
Another use of fluorite is high performance lenses for telescopes, cameras and microscopes. Naturally occurring fluorite crystals were once used for microscope lenses, but since the invention of synthetic fluorite crystals the mineral can be used to make larger lenses for telescopes and cameras. Instruments made with fluorite provide a very clear image, but are generally much more expensive than those with lenses made of glass.
There is also a small amount of fluorite used in the jewelry industry as a semiprecious stone. However, the mineral is relatively soft which does limit its use in this area.