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Tetrahydrofuran(THF)

- Jan 07, 2018 -

Tetrahydrofuran(THF) is composed of 4 carbon atoms, 8 hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom. It is most importantly characterized as being a heterocyclic ether. '-Cyclic' means it's a ring structure, the prefix 'hetero-' tells us that at least one of the atoms within the ring is something other than carbon (oxygen in this case), and the 'ether' portion of the name tells us the functional group. An ether is an organic functional group in which a central oxygen atom is bonded to two carbon-based groups. 

What about the '-furan' portion of the name tetrahydrofuran? This tells us that it's a derivative or 'cousin' of its parent molecule, furan. THF only differs in the fact that the double bonds have been removed and replaced with 4 hydrogen atoms. Does the term 'tetra' mean anything to you? That's right it means 4, for the 4 hydrogen atoms that have been added! 

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Structures of Furan and tetrahydrofuran (THF). THF has 4 hydrogen atoms replacing the double bonds of furan.

Use as a Solvent

Probably one of the most common applications is as a solvent. A solvent is used to create solutions, and in this case THF serves to dissolve or form solutions with other organic compounds. In the chemical industry, THF is the solvent of choice in making polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is the plastic that a lot of our indoor plumbing and sprinkler system pipes are made out of. 

THF is the solvent used in the synthesis of PVC pipes, which are commonly found in household plumbing systems
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Tetrahydrofuran(THF) is also a popular solvent choice for small-scale laboratory experiments, mainly because it can dissolve a wide variety of organic compounds and has a relatively low boiling point. The low boiling point is convenient because it makes the solvent easy to remove from the chemical reaction by evaporation.