Tetrahydrofuran (THF) is a general-purpose, highly volatile organic solvent. It is a colorless, water-miscible, and mobile liquid. THF offers very good solvent power for numerous organic substances and is used as a starting material for various syntheses.At present, THF is produced by either of two methods: the Reppe process and the furfural process. The Reppe process is preferred over the furfural process as the former is completely synthetic, and thus unlike its counterpart, the availability of raw materials is not dependent on agricultural conditions.
In spite of being used as a starting material for various syntheses, THF can even be used as a coating agent, adhesive, reaction medium, or extractant.The chemical is highly volatile and flammable, so care must be taken that it is stored and handled in an environment where atmospheric oxygen is excluded or limited. Also due to its volatile nature, care must be taken that the contents are used quickly once the container is opened, as it is said to have limited shelf life post exposure to the environment.
THF distilled pure has many applications as a solvent, reaction medium, or starting product for syntheses. It can be used alone or along with other solvents in the leather industry as part of coating systems. The magnetic tapes used in electronic devices such as computers can be made abrasion resistant by applying a coat of THF.
The chemical is also used for the production of PVC adhesives as well as for the fabrication of PVC pipe systems that are used in industrial processes in heating and cooling systems.THF can be used for the production of highly concentrated solutions, due to its high solvent power.It is used on a wide scale in the pharmaceutical industry as a reaction medium for the synthesis of organometallic compounds.
THF is said to cause eye irritation, skin problems, nausea, dizziness, etc. under conditions of prolonged exposure.Of late, a substitute for THF, called 2-methyl tetrahydrofuran (2-MeTHF), is being used in industries as well. The latter is said to be better than THF in terms of its chemical properties such as its stability in acidic conditions, less impurities, lower volatility, higher saturation concentrations, higher reaction yields, etc. This compound may be a potential restraint in the market for tetrahydrofuran in the coming days.