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Ferric chloride, or FeCl3, is a brown to black crystalline solid. It odors like hydrochloric acid and is deliquescent and fuming in moist air, liberating HCl, giving off a mist of gaseous hydrogen chloride. It is a strong Lewis acid and oxidizing agent. It dissolves in water to form acidic aqueous solutions which are corrosive to metals, including aluminium. It is also used as a coagulant in water purification and sewage treatment and as an etchant for copper-based metals, such as those found in printed circuit boards and stainless steel. It also is used to treat animal wounds, because it can remove parasites, such as protozoa, that cause disease.
The molar mass of fecl3 is 162.2 g/mol. It has a melting point of about 315 degrees Celsius, and a boiling point of about 425 degrees Celsius. Its vapor is toxic, and it can burn the skin, eyes and mucous membranes if inhaled. It is soluble in alcohols such as ethanol and isopropyl ethanol, and in polar solvents such as methanol, acetone and ether. It is also soluble in non-polar organic solvents such as benzene and hexane, but it is insoluble in carbon disulfide, liquid sulfur dioxide, phosphorus tribromide, phosphorus oxychloride and tin chloride. It is moderately soluble in other organic compounds.
Ferric chloride reacts very rapidly with oxygen ligands, such as oxalate salts, to give complexes such as [Fe(C2O4)3]3-, known as ferrioxalate, and also with carboxylate ions to give the salts of phthalic anhydride (Fe(C2O4)3]3- and tartrate (Fe(C2O4)3]3-. It also has a high affinity for phenols and is the basis of the traditional colorimetric test for phenols.