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Going After Fluoride Anions In Water, By Dr. Gabbai

670 words - 3 pages

I attended the First Year Program Lecture, “Going after Fluoride Anions in Water: From Drinking Water Analysis to Cancer Imaging,” by Dr. Francois Gabbai. Dr. Gabbai was born in France and received his undergraduate degree from a French university after which he attended t.u. for his doctoral studies. He completed his post doctorate studies at a university in Munich. In 1998 he was hired by Texas A&M University and was a full professor by 2006.
Dr. Gabbai’s area of research dealt with fluoride anions. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and makes it acid resistant therefore preventing cavities. Because of this benefit, public water supplies have been supplemented by fluoride for years. However, this practice has been greatly diminished recently because the amount of fluoride found in natural water supplies and in toothpaste is enough to provide the benefits we want from the anion. In fact, too much fluoride can cause hypermineralization of tooth enamel because of enzyme inhibition and bone deformation due to fluoride deposition in joints. Because of this, the government’s recommended levels of fluoridation have been lowered from 1.2 to 0.7 ppm.
Dr. Gabbai and his lab wanted to develop a way to test for the presence of fluoride anions in the water supply. The fluoride anion is a weak base that could be captured and sensed with an acid such as borane. When borane binds to the anion, the color of the indicator changes from yellow to clear. However, this won’t work if the fluoride anion is in an aqueous solution because the anion is masked by the hydrogen bonds between it and water. Gabbai wanted to chelate the anion to pull it out of the water to trap and identify it using a bidentate Lewis acid. The first attempt didn’t work because the substance decomposed in water. The second attempt was a phosphorus borane that worked well because it exploited the electrostatic properties of fluoride. To add an indicator, alizarin red was...

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