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Alternatives to Hydrofluoric Acid

Hi Folks,

First of all, happy holidays to you and yours   :-)

I received a call the other day from a specialty company that forms
various products out of 99% pure synthetic Sapphire.   The final
products are run through an etch step utilizing a Hydrofluoric Acid/Nitric
Acid solution.  This is apparently done to remove small amounts of
Tungsten, Molybdenum, and various other trace elements remaining in
the Sapphire.  

This is a very small, low volume operation.  Bath lasts about a shift. 
Rinse waters total about 100- 150 gallons per 8 hours.

The state OSHA program suggested that the company contact us for
opportunities for moving away from HF due to safety concerns.

I don't have much familiarity with this operation or with the use of HF. 
Does anyone have any suggestions for less hazardous alternatives or
improved management techniques for this type of small, batch HF acid
etch operation? 

A general internet search didn't yield much.  I appreciate any leads that
might pop up. 


Vince Perelli
Vincent R. Perelli
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
Pollution Prevention Program
6 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301-6509
phone:  603  271-2902
fax:    603  271-2456
v_perelli@des.state.nh.us or

A thought from E.F. Schumacher in 1973 - "We must begin to see 
the possibility of evolving a new life style, with new methods
of production and new patterns of consumption;  a life-style 
designed for permanence"