Acetylene: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

CAS number 74-86-2 Yes check.svgY
ChemSpider 6086
UN number 1001 (dissolved)
3138 (in mixture with ethylene and propylene)
Molecular formula C2H2
Molar mass 26.04 g mol−1
Density 1.097 kg/m3
Melting point

−80.8 °C (189 K, subl)

Boiling point

−84 °C

Acidity (pKa) 25
Molecular shape Linear
Std enthalpy of
+226.88 kJ/mol
NFPA 704
NFPA 704.svg
 Yes check.svgY (what is this?)  (verify)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Infobox references

Acetylene (IUPAC name: ethyne) is the chemical compound with the formula HC2H. It is a hydrocarbon and the simplest alkyne. This colourless gas is widely used as a fuel and a chemical building block. It is unstable in pure form and thus is usually handled as a solution.

As an alkyne, acetylene is unsaturated because its two carbon atoms are bonded together in a triple bond. The carbon-carbon triple bond places all four atoms in the same straight line, with CCH bond angles of 180°. Since acetylene is a linear symmetrical molecule, it possesses the D∞h point group[1].



Acetylene was discovered in 1836 by Edmund Davy who identified it as a "new carburet of hydrogen". It was rediscovered in 1860 by French chemist Marcellin Berthelot, who coined the name "acetylene". Berthelot was able to prepare this gas by passing vapours of organic compounds (methanol, ethanol, etc.) through a red-hot tube and collecting the effluent. He also found acetylene was formed by sparking electricity through mixed cyanogen and hydrogen gases. Berthelot later obtained acetylene directly by passing hydrogen between the poles of a carbon arc.[2]


Nowadays acetylene is mainly manufactured by the partial combustion of methane or appears as a side product in the ethylene stream from cracking of hydrocarbons. Approximately 400,000 tonnes are produced this way annually.[3] Its presence in ethylene is usually undesirable because of its explosive character and its ability to poison Ziegler-Natta catalysts. It is selectively hydrogenated into ethylene, usually using Pd-Ag catalysts.[4]

Until the 1950s, when oil supplanted coal as the chief source of carbon, acetylene (and the aromatic fraction from coal tar) was the main source of organic chemicals in the chemical industry. It was prepared by the hydrolysis of calcium carbide, a reaction discovered by Friedrich Wöhler in 1862 and still familiar to students:

CaC2 + 2H2O → Ca(OH)2 + C2H2

Calcium carbide production requires extremely high temperatures, ~2000 °C, necessitating the use of an electric arc furnace. In the US, this process was an important part of the late-1800s revolution in chemistry enabled by the massive hydroelectric power project at Niagara Falls.


In terms of valence bond theory, in each carbon atom the 2s orbital hybridizes with one 2p orbital thus forming an sp hybrid. The other two 2p orbitals remain unhybridized. The two ends of the two sp hybrid orbitals overlap to form a strong σ valence bond between the carbons, while on each of the other two ends hydrogen atoms attach also by σ bonds. The two unchanged 2p orbitals form a pair of weaker π valence bonds.[5]


Approximately 80 percent of the acetylene produced annually in the United States is used in chemical synthesis[citation needed]. One new application is the conversion of acetylene to ethylene for use in making a variety of polyethylene plastics. An important reaction of acetylene is its combustion, the basis of the acetylene welding technologies. Otherwise, its major applications involve its conversion to acrylic acid derivatives. Acetylides with many metal ions by reactions of with solutions of their salts. Several, e.g., silver acetylide and copper acetylide, are powerful and very dangerous explosives. Copper acetylide is also formed by reacting acetylene with metallic copper or its alloys; these materials are therefore unsuitable for installations for handling acetylene.


Reppe chemistry

Walter Reppe discovered that in the presence of metal catalysts, acetylene can react to give a wide range of industrially significant chemicals.

1,4-Butynediol is produced industrially in this way from formaldehyde and acetylene.


Approximately 20 percent of acetylene is consumed for oxyacetylene gas welding and cutting due to the high temperature of the flame; combustion of acetylene with oxygen produces a flame of over 3600 K (3300 °C, 6000 °F), releasing 11.8 kJ/g. Oxyacetylene is the hottest burning common fuel gas.[6] Acetylene is the third hottest natural chemical flame after cyanogen at 4798 K (4525 °C, 8180 °F) and dicyanoacetylene's 5260 K (4990 °C, 9010 °F). Oxy-acetylene welding was a very popular welding process in previous decades, however, the development and advantages of arc-based welding processes have made oxy-fuel welding nearly extinct. Acetylene usage for welding has dropped significantly. However, oxy-fuel cutting is still very popular and oxy-acetylene cutting is present in nearly every metal fabrication shop. For use in welding and cutting, the working pressures must be controlled by a regulator, or the gas will spontaneously combust.

Acetylene fuel container/burner as used in the island of Bali

Niche and historically interesting applications

In 1881, the Russian chemist Mikhail Kucherov[7] described the hydration of acetylene to acetaldehyde using catalysts such as mercury(II) bromide. Before the advent of the Wacker process, this reaction was conducted on an industrial scale.[8]

The polymerization of acetylene with Ziegler-Natta catalysts produces polyacetylene films. Polyacetylene, a chain of CH centres with alternating single and double bonds, was the one of first discovered organic semiconductors. Its reaction with iodine produces a highly electrically conducting material. Although such materials are not useful, these discoveries led to the developments of organic semiconductors, as recognized by the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000 to Alan J. Heeger, Alan G MacDiarmid, and Hideki Shirakawa.

In the early 20th Century acetylene was widely used for illumination, including street lighting in some towns.[9] Most early automobiles used carbide lamps before the adoption of electric headlights.

Acetylene is sometimes used for carburization (that is, hardening) of steel when the object is too large to fit into a furnace.[6]

Acetylene is used to volatilize carbon in radiocarbon dating. The carbonaceous material in an archeological sample is reacted with lithium metal in a small specialized research furnace to form lithium carbide (also known as lithium acetylide). The carbide can then be reacted with water, as usual, to form acetylene gas to be fed into mass spectrometer to sort out the isotopic ratio of carbon 14 to carbon 12.

Natural occurrence

Acetylene is a moderately common chemical in the universe, often associated with the atmospheres of gas giants.[10] One curious discovery of acetylene is on Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. Natural acetylene is believed to form from either catalytic decomposition of long chain hydrocarbons at temperatures of 1,770 K and above. Since such temperatures are highly unlikely on such a small distant body, this discovery is potentially suggestive of catalytic reactions within the moon, making it a promising site to search for prebiotic chemistry.[11][12]

Safety and handling

Acetylene is not especially toxic but when generated from calcium carbide it can contain toxic impurities such as traces of phosphine and arsine. It is also highly flammable (hence its use in welding). Its singular hazard is associated with its intrinsic instability, especially when it is pressurized. Samples of concentrated or pure acetylene can easily react in an addition-type reaction to form a number of products, typically benzene and/or vinylacetylene. This reaction is exothermic. Consequently, acetylene can explode with extreme violence if the pressure of the gas exceeds about 200 kPa (29 psi) as a gas[13] or when in liquid or solid form. It is therefore shipped and stored dissolved in acetone or dimethylformamide (DMF), contained in a metal cylinder with a porous filling (Agamassan), which renders it safe to transport and use, given proper handling.


  1. ^ Inorganic Chemistry 3rd edition, Catherine Housecroft and Alan Sharpe, Pearson Education Limited, Chapter 4; page 94-95
  2. ^ Acetylene
  3. ^ Peter Pässler, Werner Hefner, Klaus Buckl, Helmut Meinass, Andreas Meiswinkel, Hans-Jürgen Wernicke, Günter Ebersberg, Richard Müller, Jürgen Bässler, Hartmut Behringer, Dieter Mayer “Acetylene” in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2008, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a01_097.pub3. Article Online Posting Date: 15 October 2008
  4. ^ Acetylene: How Products are Made
  5. ^ Organic Chemistry 7th ed. by J. McMurry, Thomson 2008
  6. ^ a b Acetylene, BOC
  7. ^ Kutscheroff, M. "Ueber eine neue Methode direkter Addition von Wasser (Hydratation) an die Kohlenwasserstoffe der Acetylenreihe" Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft 1881, Volume 14, 1540–1542. doi:10.1002/cber.188101401320
  8. ^ Dmitry A. Ponomarev and Sergey M. Shevchenko (2007). "Hydration of Acetylene: A 125th Anniversary". J. Chem. Ed. 84 (10): 1725. 
  9. ^ The 100 most important chemical compounds: a reference guide
  10. ^ W. M. Keck Observatory (20 December 2005). "Precursor to Proteins and DNA found in Stellar Disk". Press release. 
  11. ^ Emily Lakdawalla (17 March 2006). "LPSC: Wednesday afternoon: Cassini at Enceladus". The Planetary Society. 
  12. ^ John Spencer and David Grinspoon (25 January 2007). "Planetary science: Inside Enceladus". Nature 445: 376–377. doi:10.1038/445376b. 
  13. ^ Korzun, Mikołaj (1986). 1000 słów o materiałach wybuchowych i wybuchu. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. ISBN 83-11-07044-X. OCLC 69535236. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ACETYLENE, klumene or ethine, a gaseous compound of carbon and hydrogen, represented by the formula C 2 H 2. It is a colourless gas, having a density of 0.92. When it has a very strong and penetrating odour, but when it is thoroughly purified from sulphuretted and phosphuretted hydrogen, which are invariably present with it in minute traces, this extremely pungent odour disappears, and the pure gas has a not unpleasant ethereal smell. It can be condensed into the liquid state by cold or by pressure, and experiments by G. Ansdell show that if the gas be subjected to a pressure of 21�53 atmospheres at a temperature of o° C., it is converted into the liquid state, the pressure needed increasing with the rise of temperature, and decreasing with the lowering of the temperature, until at - 82° C. it becomes liquid under ordinary atmospheric pressure. The critical point of the gas is 37° C., at which temperature a pressure of 68 atmospheres is required for liquefaction. The properties of liquid and solid acetylene have been investigated by D. McIntosh (Jour. Chem. Soc., Abs., 1 907, i. 45 8). A great future was expected from its use in the liquid state, since a cylinder fitted with the necessary reducing valves would supply the gas to light a house for a considerable period, the liquid occupying about T h. the volume of the gas, but in the United States and on the continent of Europe, where liquefied acetylene was made on the large scale, several fatal accidents occurred owing to its explosion under not easily explained conditions. As a result of these accidents M. P. E. Berthelot and L. J. G. Vieille made a series of valuable researches upon the explosion of acetylene under various conditions. They found that if liquid acetylene in a steel bottle be heated at one point by a platinum wire raised to a red heat, the whole mass decomposes and gives rise to such tremendous pressures that no cylinder would be able to withstand them. These pressures varied from 71,000 to ioo,000 lb. per square inch. They, moreover, tried the effect of shock upon the liquid, and found that the repeated dropping of the cylinder from a height of nearly 20 feet upon a large steel anvil gave no explosion, but that when the cylinder was crushed under a heavy blow the impact was followed, after a short interval of time, by an explosion which was manifestly due to the fracture of the cylinder and the ignition of the escaping gas, mixed with air, from sparks caused by the breaking of the metal. A similar explosion will frequently follow the breaking in the same way of a cylinder charged with hydrogen at a high pressure. Continuing these experiments, they found that in acetylene gas under ordinary pressures the decomposition brought about in one portion of the gas, either by heat or the firing in it of a small detonator, did not spread far beyond the point at which the decomposition started, while if the acetylene was compressed to a pressure of more than 30 lb on the square inch, the decomposition travelled throughout the mass and became in reality detonation. These results showed clearly that liquefied acetylene was far too dangerous for general introduction for domestic purposes, since, although the occasions would be rare in which the requisite temperature to bring about detonation would be reached, still, if this point were attained, the results would be of a most disastrous character. The fact that several accidents had already happened accentuated the risk, and in Great Britain the storage and use of liquefied acetylene are prohibited.

When liquefied acetylene is allowed to escape from the cylinder in which it is contained into ordinary atmospheric pressure, some of the liquid assumes the gaseous condition with such rapidity as to cool the remainder below the temperature of - 90° C., and convert it into a solid snow-like mass.

Acetylene is readily soluble in water, which at normal temperature and pressure takes up a little more than its own volume of the gas, and yields a solution giving a purple-red precipitate with ammoniacal cuprous chloride and a white precipitate with silver nitrate, these precipitates consisting of acetylides of the metals. The solubility of the gas in various liquids, as given by different observers, is zoo Volumes of Brine Water Alcohol Paraffin Carbon disulphide Fusel oil Benzene Chloroform Acetic acid Acetone It will be seen from this table that where it is desired to collect and keep acetylene over a liquid, brine, i.e. water saturated with salt, is the best for the purpose, but in practice it is found that, unless water is agitated with acetylene, or the gas bubbled through, the top layer soon gets saturated, and the gas then dissolves but slowly. The great solubility of acetylene in acetone was pointed out by G. Claude and A. Hess, who showed that acetone will absorb twenty-five times its own volume of acetylene at a temperature of 15° C. under atmospheric pressure, and that, providing the temperature is kept constant, the liquid acetone will go on absorbing acetylene at the rate of twentyfive times its own volume for every atmosphere of pressure to which the gas is subjected.

At first it seemed as if this discovery would do away with all the troubles connected with the storage of acetylene under pressure, but it was soon found that there were serious difficulties still to be overcome. The chief trouble was that acetone expands a small percentage of its own volume while it is absorbing acetylene; therefore it is impossible to fill a cylinder with acetone and then force in acetylene, and still more impracticable only partly to fill the cylinder with acetone, as in that case the space above the liquid would be filled with acetylene under high pressure, and would have all the disadvantages of a cylinder containing compressed acetylene only. This difficulty was overcome by first filling the cylinder with porous briquettes and then soaking them with a fixed percentage of acetone, so that after allowing for the space taken up by the bricks the quantity of acetone soaked into the brick will absorb ten times the normal volume of the cylinder in acetylene for every atmosphere of pressure to which the gas is subjected, whilst all danger of explosion is eliminated.

This fact having been fully demonstrated, acetylene dissolved in this way was exempted from the Explosives Act, and consequently upon this exemption a large business has grown up in the preparation and use of dissolved acetylene for lighting motor omnibuses, motor cars, railway carriages, lighthouses, buoys, yachts, &c., for which it is particularly adapted.

Acetylene was at one time supposed to be a highly poisonous gas, the researches of A. Bistrow and 0. Liebreich having apparently shown that it acts upon the blood in the same way as carbon monoxide to form a stable com pound. Very extensive experiments, however, made by Drs N. Grehant, A. L. Brociner, L. Crismer, and others, all conclusively show that acetylene is much less toxic than carbon monoxide, and indeed than coal gas.

When acetylene was first introduced on a commercial scale grave fears were entertained as to its safety, it being represented that it had the power of combining with certain metals, more especially copper and silver, to form acetylides of a highly explosive character, and that even with coal gas, which contains less than i %, such copper compounds had been known to be formed in cases where the gas-distributing mains were composed of copper, and that accidents had happened from this cause. It was therefore predicted that the introduction of acetylene on a large scale would be followed by numerous accidents unless copper and its alloys were rigidly excluded from contact with the gas. These fears have, however, fortunately proved to be unfounded, and ordinary gas fittings can be used with perfect safety with this gas.

Acetylene has the property of inflaming spontaneously when brought in contact with chlorine. If a few pieces of carbide be dropped into saturated chlorine water the bubbles of gas take I. a, l by the action of water upon calcium carbide, prepared}' p fire as they reach the surface, and if a jet of acetylene be passed up into a bottle of chlorine it takes fire and burns with a heavy red flame, depositing its carbon in the form of soot. If chlorine be bubbled up into a jar of acetylene standing over water, a violent explosion, attended with a flash of intense light and the deposition of carbon, at once takes place. When the gas is kept in a small glass holder exposed to direct sunlight, the surface of the glass soon becomes dimmed, and W. A. Bone has shown that when exposed for some time to the sun's rays it undergoes certain polymerization changes which lead to the deposition of a film of heavy hydrocarbons on the surface of the tube. It has also been observed by L. Cailletet and later by P. Villard that when allowed to stand in the presence of water at a low temperature a solid hydrate is formed. Acetylene is readily decomposed by heat, polymerizing under its influence to form an enormous number of organic of compounds; indeed the gas, which can itself be directly prepared from its constituents, carbon and hydrogen, under the influence of the electric arc, can be made the startingpoint for the construction of an enormous number of different organic compounds of a complex character. In contact with nascent hydrogen it builds up ethylene; ethylene acted upon by sulphuric acid yields ethyl sulphuric acid; this can again be decomposed in the presence of water, to yield alcohol, and it has also been proposed to manufacture sugar from this body. Picric acid can also be obtained from it by first treating acetylene with sulphuric acid, converting the product into phenol by solution in potash and then treating the phenol with fuming nitric acid.

Acetylene is one of those bodies the formation of which is attended with the disappearance of heat, and it is for this reason termed an "endothermic" compound, in contradis thermic tinction to those bodies which evolve heat in their nature of formation, and which are called "exothermic." Such endothermic bodies are nearly always found to show considerable violence in their decomposition, as the heat of formation stored up within them is then liberated as sensible heat, and it is undoubtedly this property of acetylene gas which leads to its easy detonation by either heat or a shock from an explosion of fulminating mercury when in contact with it under pressure. The observation that acetylene can be resolved into its constituents by detonation is due to Berthelot, who started an explosive wave in it by firing a charge of o�i gram of mercury fulminate. It has since been shown, however, that unless the gas is at a pressure of more than two atmospheres this wave soon dies out, and the decomposition is only propagated a few inches from the detonator. Heated in contact with air to a temperature of 480° C., acetylene ignites and burns with a flame, the appearance of which varies with the way in which it is brought in contact with the air. With the gas in excess a heavy lurid flame emitting dense volumes of smoke results, whilst if it be driven out in a sufficiently thin sheet, it burns with a flame of intense brilliancy and almost perfect whiteness, by the light of which colours can be judged as well as they can by daylight. Having its ignition point below that of ordinary gas, it can be ignited by any redhot carbonaceous matter, such as the brightly glowing end of a cigar. For its complete combustion a volume of acetylene needs approximately twelve volumes of air, forming as products of combustion carbon dioxide and water vapour. When, however, the air is present in much smaller ratio the combustion is incomplete, and carbon, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and water vapour are produced. This is well shown by taking a cylinder one-half full of acetylene and one-half of air; on applying a light to the mixture a lurid flame runs down the cylinder and a cloud of soot is thrown up, the cylinder also being thickly coated with it, and often containing a ball of carbon. If now, after a few moments' interval to allow some air to diffuse into the cylinder, a taper again be applied, an explosion takes place, due to a mixture of carbon monoxide and air. It is probable that when a flame is smoking badly, distinct traces of carbon monoxide are being produced, but when an acetylene flame burns properly the products are as harmless as those of coal gas, and, light for light, less in amount. Mixed with air, like every other combustible gas, acetylene forms an explosive mixture. F. Clowes has shown that it has a wider range of explosive proportions when mixed with air than any of the other combustible gases, the limiting percentages being as follows: - Acetylene .

Hydrogen .

Carbon monoxide Ethylene. .

Methane. .

The methods which can be and have been employed from time to time for the formation of acetylene in small quantities are exceedingly numerous. Before the commercial production of calcium carbide made it one of the most easily obtainable gases, the processes which were most largely adopted for its preparation in laboratories were: - first, the decomposition of ethylene bromide by dropping it slowly into a boiling solution of alcoholic potash, and purifying the evolved gas from the volatile bromethylene by washing it through a second flask containing a boiling solution of alcoholic potash, or by passing it over moderately heated soda lime; and, second, the more ordinarily adopted process of passing the products of incomplete combustion from a Bunsen burner, the flame of which had struck back, through an ammoniacal solution of cuprous chloride, when the red copper acetylide was produced. This on being washed and decomposed with hydrochloric acid yielded a stream of acetylene gas. This second method of production has the great drawback that, unless proper precautions are taken to purify the gas obtained from the copper acetylide, it is always contaminated with certain chlorine derivatives of acetylene. Edmund Davy first made acetylene in 1836 from a compound produced during the manufacture of potassium from potassium tartrate and charcoal, which under certain conditions yielded a black compound decomposed by water with considerable violence and the evolution of acetylene. This compound was afterwards fully investigated by J. J. Berzelius, who showed it to be potassium carbide. He also made the corresponding sodium compound and showed that it evolved the same gas, whilst in 1862 F. Wohler first made calcium carbide, and found that water decomposed it into lime and acetylene. It was not, however, until 1892 that the almost simultaneous discovery was made by T. L. Wilson in America and H. Moissan in France that if lime and carbon be fused together at the temperature of the electric furnace, the lime is reduced to calcium, which unites with the excess of carbon present to form calcium carbide. The cheap production of this material and the easy liberation by its aid of acetylene at once gave the gas a position of commercial importance. In the manufacture of calcium carbide in the electric furnace, lime and anthracite of the Manufac- highest possible degree of purity are employed. A good working mixture of these materials may be taken as being loo parts by weight of lime with 68 parts c arbide. by weight of carbonaceous material. About 1.8 lb of this is used up for each pound of carbide produced. The two principal processes utilized in making calcium carbide by electrical power are the ingot process and the tapping process. In the former, the anthracite and lime are ground and carefully mixed in the right proportions to suit the chemical actions involved. The arc is struck in a crucible into which the mixture is allowed to flow, partially filling it. An ingot gradually builds up from the bottom of the crucible, the carbon electrode being raised from time to time automatically or by hand to suit the diminution of resistance due to the shortening of the arc by the rising ingot. The crucible is of metal and considerably larger than the ingot, the latter being surrounded by a mass of unreduced material which protects the crucible from the intense heat. When the ingot has been made and the crucible is full, the latter is withdrawn and another substituted. The process is not continuous, but a change of crucibles only takes two or three minutes under the best conditions, and only occurs every ten or fifteen hours. The essence of this process is that the coke and lime are only heated to the point of combination, and are not 3 to 82 5 to 72 13 to 75 4 to 22 5 to 13 colours. It can be kept unaltered in dry air, but the smallest trace of moisture in the atmosphere leads to the evolution of minute quantities of acetylene and gives it a distinctive odour. It is infusible at temperatures up to 2000° C., but can be fused in the electric arc. When heated to temperature of 2 4 5° C. in a stream of chlorine gas it becomes incandescent, forming calcium chloride and liberating carbon, and it can also be made to burn in oxygen at a dull red heat, leaving behind a residue of calcium carbonate. Under the same conditions it becomes incandescent in the vapour of sulphur, yielding calcium sulphide and carbon disulphide; the vapour of phosphorus will also unite with it at a red heat. Acted upon by water it is at once decomposed, yielding acetylene and calcium hydrate. Pure crystalline calcium carbide yields 5.8 cubic feet of acetylene per pound at ordinary temperatures, but the carbide as sold commercially, being a mixture of the pure crystalline material with the crust which in the electric furnace surrounds the ingot, yields at the best 5 cubic feet of gas per pound under proper conditions of generation. The volume of gas obtained, however, depends very largely upon the form of apparatus used, and while some will give the full volume, other apparatus will only yield, with the same carbide, 34 feet. The purity of the carbide entirely depends on the purity of the material used in its manufacture, and before this fact had been fully grasped by manufacturers, and only the purest material obtainable employed, it contained notable quantities of compounds which during its decomposition by water yielded a somewhat high pro portion of impurities in the acetylene generated from it. Although at the present time a marvellous improvement has taken place all round in the quality of the carbide produced, the acetylene nearly always contains minute traces of hydrogen, ammonia, sulphuretted hydrogen, phosphuretted hydrogen, silicon hydride, nitrogen and oxygen, and sometimes minute traces of carbon monoxide and dioxide. The formation of hydrogen is caused by small traces of metallic calcium occasionally found free in the carbide, and cases have been known where this was present in such quantities that the evolved gas contained nearly 20% of hydrogen. This takes place when in the manufacture of the carbide the material is kept too long in contact with the arc, since this overheating causes the dissociation of some of the calcium carbide and the solution of metallic calcium in the remainder. The presence of free hydrogen is nearly always accompanied by silicon hydride formed by the combination of the nascent hydrogen with the silicon in the carbide. The ammonia found in the acetylene is probably partly due to the presence of magnesium nitride in the carbide.

On decomposition by water, ammonia is produced by the action of steam or of nascent hydrogen on the nitride, the quantity formed depending very largely upon the temperature at which the carbide is decomposed. The formation of nitrides and cyanamides by actions of this kind and their easy conversion into ammonia is a useful method for fixing the nitrogen of the atmosphere and rendering it available for manurial purposes. Sulphuretted hydrogen, which is invariably present in commercial acetylene, is formed by the decomposition of aluminium sulphide. A. Mourlot has shown that aluminium sulphide, zinc sulphide and cadmium sulphide are the only sulphur compounds which can resist the heat of the electric furnace without decomposition or volatilization, and of these aluminium sulphide is the only one which is decomposed by water with the evolution of sulphuretted hydrogen. In the early samples of carbide this compound used to be present in considerable quantity, but now rarely more than % is to be found. Phosphuretted hydrogen, one of the most important impurities, which has been blamed for the haze formed by the combustion of acetylene under certain conditions, is produced by the action of water upon traces of calcium phosphide found in carbide. Although at first it was no uncommon thing to find z % of phosphuretted hydrogen present in the acetylene, this has now been so reduced by the use of pure materials that the quantity is rarely above o�15%, and it is often not one-fifth of that amount.

In the generation of acetylene from calcium carbide and water, all that has to be done is to bring these two compounds into contact, when they mutually react upon each other with the formation of lime and acetylene, while, if there be sufficient water present, the lime combines with it to form calcium hydrate.

Calcium carbide. Water. Acetylene. Lime. CaC2 -}- H 2 O = C 2 H 2 -}- CaO Lime. Water. Calcium hydrate.

CaO -IH20 = Ca(HO)2.

The decomposition of the carbide by water may be brought about either by bringing the water slowly into contact with an excess of carbide, or by dropping the carbide into an excess of water, and these two main operations again may be varied by innumerable ingenious devices by which the rapidity of the contact may be modified or even eventually stopped. The result is that although the forms of apparatus utilized for this purpose are all based on the one fundamental principle of bringing about the contact of the carbide with the water which is to enter into double decomposition with it, they have been multiplied in number to a very large extent by the methods employed in order to ensure control in working, and to get away from the dangers and inconveniences which are inseparable from a too rapid generation.

In attempting to classify acetylene generators some authorities have divided them into as many as six different classes, but this is hardly necessary, as they may be divided into two main classes - first, those in which water is brought in contact with the carbide, the carbide being in excess during the first portion of the operation; and, second, those in which the carbide is thrown into water, the amount of water present being always in excess. The first class may again be subdivided into generators in which the water rises in contact with the carbide, in which it drips upon the carbide, and in which a vessel full of carbide is lowered into water and again withdrawn as generation becomes excessive. Some of these generators are constructed to make the gas only as fast as it is consumed at the burner, with the object of saving the expense and room which would be involved by a storage-holder. Generators with devices for regulating and stopping at will the action going on are generally termed "automatic." Another set merely aims at developing the gas from the carbide and putting it into a storageholder with as little � loss as possible, and these are termed "boiled" after being formed. It is found that the ingot of calcium carbide formed in the furnace, although itself consisting of pure crystalline calcium carbide, is nearly always surrounded by a crust which contains a certain proportion of imperfectly converted constituents, and therefore gives a lower yield of acetylene than the carbide itself. In breaking up and sending out the carbide for commercial work, packed in air-tight drums, the crust is removed by a sand blast. A statement of the amount made per kilowatt hour may be misleading, since a certain amount of loss is of necessity entailed during this process. For instance, in practical working it has been found that a furnace return of o� 504 lb per kilowatt hour is brought down to 0.406 lb per kilowatt hour when the material has been broken up, sorted and packed in air-tight drums. In the tapping process a fixed crucible is used, lined with carbon, the electrode is nearly as big as the crucible and a much higher current density is used. The carbide is heated to complete liquefaction and tapped at short intervals. There is no unreduced material, and the process is considerably simplified, while less expensive plant is required. The run carbide, however, is never so rich as the ingot carbide, since an excess of lime is nearly always used in the mixture to act as a flux, and this remaining in the carbide lowers its gasyielding power. Many attempts have been made to produce the substance without electricity, but have met with no commercial success.

Calcium carbide, as formed in the electric furnace, is a beautiful crystalline semi-metallic solid, having a density of 2.22, and showing a fracture which is often shot with iridescent "non-automatic." The points to be attained in a good generator are: i. Low temperature of generation.

2. Complete decomposition of the carbide.

3. Maximum evolution of the gas.

4. Low pressure in every part of the apparatus.

5. Ease in charging and removal of residues.

6. Removal of all air from the apparatus before generation of the gas.

When carbide is acted upon by water considerable heat is evolved; indeed, the action develops about one-twentieth of the heat evolved by the combustion of carbon. As, however, the temperature developed is a function of the time needed to complete the action, the degree of heat attained varies with every form of generator, and while the water in one form may never reach the boiling-point, the carbide in another may become red-hot and give a temperature of over 800° C. Heating in a generator is not only a source of danger, but also lessens the yield of gas and deteriorates its quality. The best forms of generator are either those in which water rises slowly in contact with the carbide, or the second main division in which the carbide falls into excess of water.

It is clear that acetylene, if it is to be used on a large scale as a domestic illuminant, must undergo such processes of purification as will render it harmless and innocuous to health and property, and the sooner it is recognized as absolutely essential to purify acetylene before consuming it the sooner will the gas acquire the popularity it deserves. The only one of the impurities which offers any difficulty in removal is the phosphuretted hydrogen. There are three substances which can be relied on more or less to remove this compound, and the gas to be purified may be passed either through acid copper salts, through bleaching powder or through chromic acid. In experiments with these various bodies it is found that they are all of them effective in also ridding the acetylene of the ammonia and sulphuretted hydrogen, provided only that the surface area presented to the gas is sufficiently large. The method of washing the gas with acid solutions of copper has been patented by A. Frank of Charlottenburg, who finds that a concentrated solution of cuprous chloride in an acid, the liquid being made into a paste with kieselgiihr, is the most effective. Where the production of acetylene is going on on a small scale this method of purification is undoubtedly the most convenient one, as the acid present absorbs the ammonia, and the copper salt converts the phosphuretted and sulphuretted hydrogen into phosphates and sulphides. The vessel, however, which contains this mixture has to be of earthenware, porcelain or enamelled iron on account of the free acid present; the gas must be washed after purification to remove traces of hydrochloric acid, and care must be taken to prevent the complete neutralization of the acid by the ammonia present in the gas. The second process is one patented by Fritz Ullmann of Geneva, who utilizes chromic acid to oxidize the phosphuretted and sulphuretted hydrogen and absorb the ammonia, and this method of purification has proved the most successful in practice, the chromic acid being absorbed by kieselgiihr and the material sold under the name of "Heratol." The third process owes its inception to G. Lunge, who recommends the use of bleaching powder. Dr P. Wolff has found that when this is used on the large scale there is a risk of the ammonia present in the acetylene forming traces of chloride of nitrogen in the purifying-boxes, and as this is a compound which detonates with considerable local force, it occasionally gives rise to explosions in the purifying apparatus. If, however, the gas be first passed through a scrubber so as to wash out the ammonia this danger is avoided. Dr Wolff employs purifiers in which the gas is washed with water containing calcium chloride, and then passed through bleaching-powder solution or other oxidizing material.

When acetylene is burnt from a 000 union jet burner, at all ordinary pressures a smoky flame is obtained, but on the pressure being increased to 4 inches a magnificent flame results, free from smoke, and developing an illuminating value of 240 candles per 5 cubic feet of gas consumed. Slightly higher values have been obtained, but 240 may be taken as the average value under these conditions. When acetylene was first introduced as a commercial illuminant in England, very small union jet nipples were utilized for its consumption, but after burning for a short time these nipples began to carbonize, the flame being distorted, and then smoking occurred with the formation of a heavy deposit of soot. While these troubles were being experienced in England, attempts had been made in America to use acetylene diluted with a certain proportion of air which permitted it to be burnt in ordinary flat flame nipples; but the danger of such admixture being recognized, nipples of the same class as those used in England were employed, and the same troubles ensued. In France, single jets made of glass were first employed, and then P. Resener, H. Luchaire, G. Ragot and others made burners in which two jets of acetylene, coming from two tubes placed some little distance apart, impinged and splayed each other out into a butterfly flame. Soon afterwards, J. S. Billwiller introduced the idea of sucking air into the flame at or just below the burner tip, and at this juncture the Naphey or Dolan burner was introduced in America, the principle employed being to use two small and widely separated jets instead of the two openings of the union jet burner, and to make each a minute bunsen, the acetylene dragging in from the base of the nipple enough air to surround and protect it while burning from contact with the steatite. This class of burner forms a basis on which all the later constructions of burner have been founded, but had the drawback that if the flame was turned low, insufficient air to prevent carbonization of the burner tips was drawn in, owing to the reduced flow of gas. This fault has now been reduced by a cage of steatite round the burner tip, which draws in sufficient air to prevent deposition.

When acetylene was first introduced on a commercial scale attempts were made to utilize its great heat of combustion by using it in conjunction with oxygen in the oxy hydrogen blowpipe. It was found, however, that when Oxyacetylene using acetylene under low pressures, the burner tip blowpipe. became so heated as to cause the decomposition of some of the gas before combustion, the jet being choked up by the carbon which deposited in a very dense form; and as the use of acetylene under pressures greater than one hundred inches of water was prohibited, no advance was made in this direction. The introduction of acetylene dissolved under pressure in acetone contained in cylinders filled with porous material drew attention again to this use of the gas, and by using a special construction of blowpipe an oxy-acetylene flame is produced, which is far hotter than the oxy-hydrogen flame, and at the same time is so reducing in its character that it can be used for the direct autogenous welding of steel and many minor metallurgical processes.

REFERENCES. - F. H. Leeds and W. A. Butterfield, Calcium Carbide and Acetylene (1903); F. Dommer, L' Acetylene et ses applications (1896); V. B. Lewes, Acetylene (1900); F. Liebetanz, Calcium-carbid and Acetylen (1899); G. Pelissier, L'Eclairage a l'acetylene (1897); C. de Perrodil, Le carbure de calcium et l'acetylene (1897). For a complete list of the various papers and memoirs on Acetylene, see A. Ludwig's Fiihrer durch die gesammte Calciumcarbid-und-Acetylen-Literatur, Berlin. (V. B. L.)

<< Acetophenone

Achaea >>

Simple English

Acetylene is a hydrocarbon, belonging to the alkyne group. It is the simplest type of alkyne, as it has only two hydrogen atoms and two carbon atoms. Acetylene is an unsaturated organic compound because its four atoms are triple bonded through a covalent bond. It was discovered in 1836 by Edmund Davy. The chemical symbol is C2H2.

80% of all acetylene produced yearly in the United States is used for chemical synthesis. It is a toxic chemical; breathing the substance causes dizziness, headache and nausea.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address