HFE: The ideal substitute in the new generation of ODS

2022-07-20 21:56
  1. Current market demand of HFE

According to QYR’s statistics and forecasts, the global Hydrogen Fluoride Ether (HFE) market reached USD 0.9 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 160 million in 2028, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4% (2022-2028).

The top three global HFE producers are 3M, AGC and Trina Chemical, which together hold more than 85% of the market share. North America is currently the largest HFE market in the world, with about 65% of the market share, followed by China and Japan, which together hold close to 30% of the market share. At present, in terms of product type, HFE can generally be divided into pure HFE and HFE blends, of which in 2019, pure HFE accounts for the largest proportion of market share, about 90%, and the price is also relatively high, while HFE blends account for only 10%.

Second, the replacement process of HFE

With the increasing maturity and rapid development of 5G technology and the increasing demand for high-end chips and large data centers, the application of fluorine-containing specialty chemicals will see explosive growth. The Guidance Catalogue for Industrial Structure Adjustment (2019 version) clearly states that substitutes for ozone depleting substances (ODS) with zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and low global warming potential (GWP) and fluorine-containing fine chemicals are included in the encouraged category.

Hydrofluoric ether (HFE) is an ideal substitute for the new generation ODS and is one of the most important fluorine-containing specialty chemicals.

First generation products

In the 1930s, scientists developed chlorofluoroalkanes (CFCs for short), such as: trifluoro-trichloroethane (CFC-113), trichloromonofluoromethane (CFC-11), dichlorodifluoromethane (CFC-12), etc. The halogen atoms in CFCs are non-metallic and electron-absorbing atoms in the periodic list of elements, which can make the alkane chains carry a strong polarity. Such organic compounds have both the non-polarity of organic substances and the strong polarity of halogen atoms, and at the same time have non-toxic or low toxicity, non-flammable, non-explosive, easy to detect leaks, simple process, low price, etc. Therefore, it (they) in theory can dissolve both organic dirt with non-polarity and inorganic dirt with polarity, as a cleaning agent is excellent. In addition, CFCs have low boiling point, high critical temperature, low freezing temperature, high latent heat of vaporization and other properties, and also have outstanding refrigeration capacity, which can be used as refrigerant. Therefore, CFCs are an indispensable class of chemicals for modern life.

However, in the 1970s, scientists found that CFCs destroy the ozone layer, Cl, F atoms introduced into the carbon chain, on the one hand, due to the size and polarity of the F atom to make the carbon chain more stable, which is very beneficial to users; on the other hand, due to the non-metallic Cl atom tops the list of non-metals, once dissociated from the molecule, its reactivity (activity) will be very strong, therefore, CFCs are The chlorine radicals can chain reaction with ozone molecules to cause damage to the atmospheric ozone layer, CFCs will also have a strong absorption of infrared radiation to cause the greenhouse effect. All the above problems have caused great concern to the international community, and many international conventions have been formulated to accelerate the phase-out of CFCs and other ODS substances.

Second Generation Products

When considering alternatives to CFCs, scientists considered introducing hydrogen atoms into CFCs molecules to develop hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which maintain the good physical properties of CFCs on the one hand and reduce the number of Cl atoms in the molecule to reduce the damage to the ozone layer on the other hand, but there are still Cl and F atoms at the same time. value is not 0 (such as 1,1-dichloromonofluoroethane [HCFC-141b] ODP value of 0.11), the Montreal Protocol on HCFC also provides a phase-out period, only later than the CFCs class compounds

Third and fourth generation products

ODP of 0 products for the third and fourth generation products, because it does not contain the element Cl, no damage to the atmospheric ozone layer, ODP of 0. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) for the third generation of products, was considered the ideal ODS replacement, but because HFC can be very strong absorption of infrared radiation, and a long atmospheric life time, with a high GWP value. The fourth generation products containing fluorinated olefins (HFO) and hydrofluorinated ethers (HFE) are designed by scientists to obtain compounds with similar physical properties as CFCs and HCFCs, but also able to decompose faster in the atmosphere, with a shorter atmospheric lifetime and friendly to the environment. As HFE is an ether compound containing fluorine, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen elements, the C-O-C bond energy is small, easy to decompose in the troposphere, brought back to the ground by rainwater, short atmospheric life of about 1~5 years, low GWP value, almost no impact on the environment, is a new generation of ODS ideal replacement.

Second, the application of HFE

HFE has no flash point, low toxicity, non-corrosive, non-flammable and other safety, low surface tension, good chemical stability, good material compatibility and other excellent performance, as well as no ozone layer destruction, no greenhouse effect, low VOC, short atmospheric life and other environmental performance, easy storage and transportation, with other alternatives incomparable advantages, the application is very wide.

Refrigerant HFE can be used in refrigerators, freezers, high-temperature heat pumps, automotive air conditioners, and as a coolant for data center immersion cooling, dramatically reducing energy use, reducing data center space size, and optimizing server hardware performance.


HFE substance is very volatile, fast drying and residue-free, and is highly soluble in fluorocarbon polymers, making it suitable for use as gas desiccant, cleaning agent, dry cleaning agent for clothes, and cleaning of precision devices. It is designated for unrestricted use in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) list of alternatives to Freon. It is favored by companies with high value-added products because of its cleaning ability, process safety and environmental protection, and will be rapidly promoted once its production cost can be significantly reduced.


HFE’s large molar mass, low vapor thermal conductivity, non-combustibility and thermal stability can be used as a foaming agent for rigid foam, an additive for insulation materials, an additive for fire extinguishing agents and a heat transfer agent.