Is PF3 Polar or Nonpolar?

Answer: PF3 is a polar molecule due to the presence of a lone pair of electrons resulting in a bent structure due to electron-electron repulsion. This leads to an unequal distribution of charge within the molecule. 

In a similar fashion to when we discussed other molecules containing lots of fluorine, the presence of such an electronegative element (3.98) vs. phosphorus (2.19) dents to impact of the lone pair electron dipole since charge is a little more evenly spread throughout the molecule. As a result phosphorus trifluoride has a melting point of -152˚C and a boiling point of -102˚C. This makes the molecule a gas at standard temperature and pressure. The structure reacts relatively slowly with water (i.e. in terms of solubility) due to the lower dipole moment.

PF3 Ball and Stick Model
PF3 Ball and Stick Model. Created with MolView.
Why is PF3 highly toxic? 

Similar to when we discussed the polarity of Carbon Monoxide, we noted the biological properties of the molecule at hand. In that case, CO disrupted the hemoglobin function by binding to iron and therefore disrupting the flow of oxygen. This made the gas toxic at concentrations greater than 35 ppm. PF3 performs a similar kind of binding to iron within hemoglobin and therefore it also toxic to human health. In fact, PF3 has an affinity to bind to many of the different transition metals besides iron.

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