With an Ka = 8.0 *1014 (~pKa=-15) mole kg-1, HOTf qualifies as a superacid. Triflic acid owes many of its useful properties to its great thermal and chemical stability. Both the acid and its conjugate base CF3SO3-, known as triflate, resist oxidation/reduction reactions, whereas many strong acids are oxidizing, e.g. HClO4 and HNO3. The triflate anion is immune to attack by even strong nucleophiles. Because of it resistance to oxidation and reduction, triflic acid is a very useful and versatile reagent. Further recommending its use, triflic acid does not sulfonate substrates, which can be a problem with sulfuric acid, fluorosulfuric acid, and chlorosulfonic acid. Below is a prototypical sulfonation, which HOTf does not undergo:
Triflic acid fumes in moist air and forms a stable solid monohydrate, CF3SO3H*H2O, melting point 34 °C.
Other ways to synthesize trifluoromethanesulfonic acid including electrochemical fluorination (ECF).
This is a very similar reaction to what would be done if one wanted to create polymers using triflic acid in the synthesis. Other Friedel-Crafts type reactions using triflic acid include cracking of alkanes and alkylation of alkenes which are very important to the petroleum industry. These triflic acid derivative catalysts are very effective in isomerizing straight chain or slightly branched hydrocarbons that can increase the octane rating of a particular petroleum based fuel.
Triflic acid reacts exothermically with alcohols to produce ethers and olefins. It can be used as a catalyst for the condensation of alcohols and carboxylic acids.
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