Ethylene: Wikis


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CAS number 74-85-1 Yes check.svgY
ChemSpider 6085
EC-number 200-815-3
Molecular formula C2H4
Molar mass 28.05 g/mol
Appearance colourless gas
Density 1.178 kg/m3 at 15 °C, gas [1]
Melting point

−169.2 °C (104.0 K, -272.6 °F)

Boiling point

−103.7 °C (169.5 K, -154.7 °F)

Solubility in water 3.5 mg/100 ml (17 °C)
Acidity (pKa) 44
Molecular shape D2h
Dipole moment zero
Std enthalpy of
+52.47 kJ/mol
Standard molar
219.32 J·K−1·mol−1
MSDS External MSDS
EU classification Extremely flammable (F+)
NFPA 704
NFPA 704.svg
Related compounds
Related compounds Ethane
Supplementary data page
Structure and
n, εr, etc.
Phase behaviour
Solid, liquid, gas
Spectral data UV, IR, NMR, MS
 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

Ethylene (IUPAC name: ethene) is the organic compound with the formula C2H4. It is the simplest alkene (older name: olefin). Because it contains a carbon-carbon double bond, ethylene is classified as an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Ethylene is widely used in industry and also has a role in biology as a hormone.[2] Ethylene is the most produced organic compound in the world; global production of ethylene exceeded 107 million metric tonnes in 2005.[3] To meet the ever increasing demand for ethylene, sharp increases in production facilities have been added globally, particularly in the Persian Gulf countries.


Structure and bonding

This hydrocarbon has four hydrogen atoms bound to a pair of carbon atoms that are connected by a double bond. All six atoms that comprise ethylene are coplanar. The H-C-H angle is 119°, close to the 120° for ideal sp² hybridized carbon. The molecule is also relatively rigid: rotation about the C-C bond is a high energy process that requires breaking the π-bond.

Orbital description of bonding between ethylene and a transition metal.

The π-bond in the ethylene molecule is responsible for its useful reactivity. The double bond is a region of high electron density, thus it is susceptible to attack by electrophiles. Many reactions of ethylene are catalyzed by transition metals, which bind transiently to the ethylene using both the π and π* orbitals.


Major industrial reactions of ethylene include in order of scale: 1) polymerization, 2) oxidation, 3) halogenation and hydrohalogenation, 4) alkylation, 5) hydration , 6) oligomerization, and 7) hydroformylation. Ethylene can also be hydrated to give ethanol, but this method is rarely used industrially. In the United States and Europe, approximately 90% of ethylene is used to produce three chemical compounds - ethylene oxide, ethylene dichloride, and ethylbenzene- and a variety of kinds of polyethylene.[4]

Main industrial uses of ethylene. Clockwise from the upper right: its conversions to ethylene oxide, precursor to ethylene glycol, to ethylbenzene, precursor to styrene, to various kinds of polyethylene, to ethylene dichloride, precursor to vinyl chloride.


Polyethylenes of various types consume more than half of world ethylene supply. Polyethylene, also called polythene, is the world's most widely-used plastic, being primarily used to make films used in packaging, carrier bags and trash liners. Linear alpha-olefins, produced by oligomerization (formation of short polymers) are used as precursorsdetergents, plasticisers, synthetic lubricants and additives, but also as co-monomers in the production of polyethylenes.[4]


Ethylene is oxidized to produce ethylene oxide, a key raw material in the production of surfactants and detergents by ethoxylation. Ethylene oxide also hydrolyzed to produce ethylene glycol, widely used as an automotive antifreeze as well as higher molecular weight glycols and glycol ethers.

Ethylene undergoes oxidation by palladium to give acetaldehyde. This conversion remains a major industrial process (10M kg/y).[5] The process proceeds via the initial complexation of ethylene to a Pd(II) center.

Halogenation and hydrohalogenation

Major intermediates from the halogenation and hydrohalogenation of ethylene include ethylene dichloride, ethyl chloride and ethylene dibromide. The addition of chlorine entails "oxychlorination," i.e. chlorine itself is not used. Some products derived from this group are polyvinyl chloride, trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, methyl chloroform, polyvinylidiene chloride and copolymers, and ethyl bromide.[6]


Major chemical intermediates from the alkylation with ethylene is ethylbenzene, precursor to styrene. Styrene is used principally in polystyrene for packaging and insulation, as well as in styrene-butadiene rubber for tires and footwear. On a smaller scale, ethyltoluene, ethylanilines, 1,4-hexadiene, and aluminium alkyls. Products of these intermediates include polystyrene, unsaturated polyesters and ethylene-propylene terpolymers.[6]


The hydroformylation (oxo-reaction) of ethylene results in propionaldehyde, a precursor to propionic acid and n-propyl alcohol.[6]

Niche uses

Given the scale of its production, ethylene is inevitably used in thousands of applications. For example, ethylene is an anesthetic agent (in an 85% ethylene/15% oxygen ratio), to hasten fruit ripening, as well as a welding gas.[4][7]


Ethylene is produced in the petrochemical industry by steam cracking. In this process, gaseous or light liquid hydrocarbons are heated to 750–950 °C, inducing numerous free radical reactions followed by immediate quench to stop these reactions. This process converts large hydrocarbons into smaller ones and introduces unsaturation. Ethylene is separated from the resulting complex mixture by repeated compression and distillation. In a related process used in oil refineries, high molecular weight hydrocarbons are cracked over zeolite catalysts. Heavier feedstocks, such as naphtha and gas oils require at least two "quench towers" downstream of the cracking furnaces to recirculate pyrolysis-derived gasoline and process water. When cracking a mixture of ethane and propane, only one water quench tower is required.[6]

The areas of an ethylene plant are:

  1. steam cracking furnaces:
  2. primary and secondary heat recovery with quench;
  3. a dilution steam recycle system between the furnaces and the quench system;
  4. primary compression of the cracked gas (3 stages of compression);
  5. hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide removal (acid gas removal);
  6. secondary compression (1 or 2 stages);
  7. drying of the cracked gas;
  8. cryogenic treatment;
  9. all of the cold cracked gas stream goes to the demethanizer tower. The overhead stream from the demethanizer tower consists of all the hydrogen and methane that was in the cracked gas stream. Cryogenically (−250 °F (−156.7 °C)) treating this overhead stream separates hydrogen from methane. Methane recovery is critical to the economical operation of an ethylene plant.
  10. the bottom stream from the demethanizer tower goes to the deethanizer tower. The overhead stream from the deethanizer tower consists of all the C2,'s that were in the cracked gas stream. The C2 stream contains acetylene, which is explosive above 200 kPa (29 psi)[8]. If the partial pressure of acetylene is expected to exceed these values, the C2 stream is partially hydrogenated. The C2's then proceed to a C2 splitter. The product ethylene is taken from the overhead of the tower and the ethane coming from the bottom of the splitter is recycled to the furnaces to be cracked again;
  11. the bottom stream from the de-ethanizer tower goes to the depropanizer tower. The overhead stream from the depropanizer tower consists of all the C3's that were in the cracked gas stream. Before feeding the C3's to the C3 splitter, the stream is hydrogenated to convert the methylacetylene and propadiene (allene) mix. This stream is then sent to the C3 splitter. The overhead stream from the C3 splitter is product propylene and the bottom stream is propane which is sent back to the furnaces for cracking or used as fuel.
  12. The bottom stream from the depropanizer tower is fed to the debutanizer tower. The overhead stream from the debutanizer is all of the C4's that were in the cracked gas stream. The bottom stream from the debutanizer (light pyrolysis gasoline) consists of everything in the cracked gas stream that is C5 or heavier.[6]

Since ethylene production is energy intensive, much effort has been dedicated to recovering heat from the gas leaving the furnaces. Most of the energy recovered from the cracked gas is used to make high pressure (1200 psig) steam. This steam is in turn used to drive the turbines for compressing cracked gas, the propylene refrigeration compressor, and the ethylene refrigeration compressor. An ethylene plant, once running, does not need to import steam to drive its steam turbines. A typical world scale ethylene plant (about 1.5 billion pounds of ethylene per year) uses a 45,000 horsepower (34,000 kW) cracked gas compressor, a 30,000 horsepower (22,000 kW) propylene compressor, and a 15,000 horsepower (11,000 kW) ethylene compressor.

Laboratory aspects

Ethylene can be produced in the laboratory by heating absolute ethanol with concentrated sulfuric acid.[9] Interestingly for such a useful compound, ethylene is rarely used in organic synthesis in the laboratory.[10]

Being a simple molecule, ethylene is spectroscopically simple. Its UV-vis spectrum is still used as a test of theoretical methods.[11]

Ethylene as a plant hormone

Ethylene serves as a hormone in plants.[12] It acts at trace levels throughout the life of the plant by stimulating or regulating the ripening of fruit, the opening of flowers, and the abscission (or shedding) of leaves.

History of ethylene in plant biology

Ethylene has been used in practice since the ancient Egyptians, who would gash figs in order to stimulate ripening (wounding stimulates ethylene production by plant tissues). The ancient Chinese would burn incense in closed rooms to enhance the ripening of pears. In 1864, it was discovered that gas leaks from street lights led to stunting of growth, twisting of plants, and abnormal thickening of stems.[12] In 1901, a Russian scientist named Dimitry Neljubow showed that the active component was ethylene.[13] Doubt discovered that ethylene stimulated abscission in 1917.[14] It wasn't until 1934 that Gane reported that plants synthesize ethylene.[15] In 1935, Crocker proposed that ethylene was the plant hormone responsible for fruit ripening as well as senescence of vegetative  tissues.[16]

Ethylene biosynthesis in plants

Plant biosynthesis of ethylene

Ethylene is produced from essentially all parts of higher plants, including leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruits, tubers, and seedlings.

"Ethylene production is regulated by a variety of developmental and environmental factors. During the life of the plant, ethylene production is induced during certain stages of growth such as germination, ripening of fruits, abscission of leaves, and senescence of flowers. Ethylene production can also be induced by a variety of external aspects such as mechanical wounding, environmental stresses, and certain chemicals including auxin and other regulators".[17]

The biosynthesis of the hormone starts with conversion of the amino acid methionine to S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM, also called Adomet) by the enzyme Met Adenosyltransferase. SAM is then converted to 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic-acid (ACC) by the enzyme ACC synthase (ACS); the activity of ACS dertermines the rate of ethylene production, therefore regulation of this enzyme is key for the ethylene biosynthesis. The final step requires oxygen and involves the action of the enzyme ACC-oxidase (ACO), formerly known as the Ethylene Forming Enzyme (EFE). Ethylene biosynthesis can be induced by endogenous or exogenous ethylene. ACC synthesis increases with high levels of auxins, specially Indole acetic acid (IAA), and cytokinins. ACC synthase is inhibited by abscisic acid.

Ethylene perception in plants

Ethylene could be perceived by a transmembrane protein dimer complex. The gene encoding an ethylene receptor has been cloned in Arabidopsis thaliana and then in tomato. Ethylene receptors are encoded by multiple genes in the Arabidopsis and tomato genomes. The gene family comprises five receptors in Arabidopsis and at least six in tomato, most of which have been shown to bind ethylene. DNA sequences for ethylene receptors have also been identified in many other plant species and an ethylene binding protein has even been identified in Cyanobacteria.[12]

Environmental and biological triggers of ethylene

Environmental cues can induce the biosynthesis of the plant hormone. Flooding, drought, chilling, wounding, and pathogen attack can induce ethylene formation in the plant. In flooding, root suffers from lack of oxygen, or anoxia, which leads to the synthesis of 1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC). ACC is transported upwards in the plant and then oxidized in leaves. The product, the ethylene causes epinasty of the leaves.

One speculation recently put forth for epinasty is the downward pointing leaves may act as pump handles in the wind. The ethylene may or may not additionally induce the growth of a valve in the xylem, but the idea would be that the plant would harness the power of the wind to pump out more water from the roots of the plants than would normally happen with transpiration.

Physiological responses of plants

Like the other plant hormones, ethylene is considered to have pleiotropic effects. This essentially means that it is thought that at least some of the effects of the hormone are unrelated. What is actually caused by the gas may depend on the tissue affected as well as environmental conditions. In the evolution of plants, ethylene would simply be a message that was coopted for unrelated uses by plants during different periods of the evolutionary development.

List of plant responses to ethylene

  • Seedling triple response, thickening and shortening of hypocotyl with pronounced apical  hook. This is thought to be a seedling's reaction to an obstacle in the soil such a stone, allowing it to push past the obstruction.
  • In pollination, when the pollen reaches the stigma, the precursor of the ethylene, ACC, is secreted to the petal, the ACC releases ethylene with ACC oxidase.
  • Stimulates leaf and flower senescence
  • Stimulates senescence of mature xylem cells in preparation for plant use
  • Inhibits shoot growth except in some habitually flooded plants like rice
  • Induces leaf abscission
  • Induces seed germination
  • Induces root hair growth – increasing the efficiency of water and mineral absorption
  • Induces the growth of adventitious roots during flooding
  • Stimulates epinasty – leaf petiole grows out, leaf hangs down and curls into itself
  • Stimulates fruit ripening
  • Induces a climacteric rise in respiration  in some fruit which causes a release of additional ethylene. This can be the one bad apple in a barrel spoiling the rest phenomenon.
  • Affects neighboring individuals
  • Affects gravitropism
  • Stimulates nutational bending
  • Disease/wounding resistance
  • Inhibits stem growth outside of seedling stage
  • Stimulates stem and cell broadening and lateral branch growth also outside of seedling stage
  • Interference with auxin transport (with high auxin concentrations)
  • Inhibits stomatal closing except in some water plants or habitually flooded ones such as some rice varieties, where the opposite occurs (conserving CO2 and O2)
  • Where ethylene induces stomatal closing, it also induces stem elongation
  • Induces flowering in pineapples

Commercial issues

Ethylene shortens the shelf life of many fruits by hastening fruit ripening and floral senescence. Tomatoes, bananas and apples will ripen faster in the presence of ethylene. Bananas placed next to other fruits will produce enough ethylene to cause accelerated fruit ripening. Ethylene will shorten the shelf life of cut flowers and potted plants by accelerating floral senescence and floral abscission. Flowers and plants which are subjected to stress during shipping, handling, or storage produce ethylene causing a significant reduction in floral display. Flowers affected by ethylene include carnation, geranium, petunia, rose, and many others.[18]

Ethylene can cause significant economic losses for florists, markets, suppliers, and growers. Researchers have developed several ways to inhibit ethylene, including inhibiting ethylene synthesis and inhibiting ethylene perception. Aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG), Aminooxyacetic acid (AOA), and silver ions are ethylene inhibitors[19][20]. Inhibiting ethylene synthesis is less effective for reducing post-harvest losses since ethylene from other sources can still have an effect. By inhibiting ethylene perception, fruits, plants and flowers don't respond to ethylene produced endogenously or from exogenous sources. Inhibitors of ethylene perception include compounds that have a similar shape to ethylene, but do not elicit the ethylene response. One example of an ethylene perception inhibitor is 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP).

Commercial growers of bromeliads, including pineapple plants, use ethylene to induce flowering. Plants can be induced to flower either by treatment with the gas in a chamber, or by placing a banana peel next to the plant in an enclosed area.

Historical Significance

Many geologists and scholars believe that the famous Greek Oracle at Delphi (the Pythia) went into her trance-like state as an effect of ethylene rising from ground faults.[21]


Ethylene appears to have been discovered by Johann Joachim Becher, who obtained it by heating ethanol with sulfuric acid;[22] he mentioned the gas in his Physica Subterranea (1669).[23] Joseph Priestley also mentions the gas in his Experiments and observations relating to the various branches of natural philosophy: with a continuation of the observations on air (1779), where he reports that Jan Ingenhousz saw ethylene synthesized in the same way by a Mr. Enée in Amsterdam in 1777 and that Ingenhousz subsequently produced the gas himself.[24] The properties of ethylene were studied in 1795 by four Dutch chemists, Johann Rudolph Deimann, Adrien Paets van Troostwyck, Anthoni Lauwerenburgh and Nicolas Bondt, who found that it differed from hydrogen gas and that it contained both carbon and hydrogen.[25] This group also discovered that ethylene could be combined with chlorine to produce the oil of the Dutch chemists, 1,2-dichloroethane; this discovery gave ethylene the name used for it at that time, olefiant gas (oil-making gas.)[26]

In the mid-19th century, the suffix -ene (an Ancient Greek root added to the end of female names meaning "daughter of") was widely used to refer to a molecule or part thereof that contained one fewer hydrogen atoms than the molecule being modified. Thus, ethylene (C2H4) was the "daughter of ethyl" (C2H5). The name ethylene was used in this sense as early as 1852.

In 1866, the German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann proposed a system of hydrocarbon nomenclature in which the suffixes -ane, -ene, -ine, -one, and -une were used to denote the hydrocarbons with 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 fewer hydrogens than their parent alkane.[27] In this system, ethylene became ethene. Hofmann's system eventually became the basis for the Geneva nomenclature approved by the International Congress of Chemists in 1892, which remains at the core of the IUPAC nomenclature. However, by that time, the name ethylene was deeply entrenched, and it remains in wide use today, especially in the chemical industry.


The 1979 IUPAC nomenclature rules made an exception for retaining the non-systematic name ethylene[28], however, this decision was reversed in the 1993 rules[29] so the IUPAC name is now ethene.


Like all hydrocarbons, ethylene is an asphyxiant and combustable, but there is no evidence for special toxicity. In fact it has been used as an anesthetic.[30]

See also


  1. ^ Record of Ethylene in the GESTIS Substance Database from the IFA, accessed on 25 October 2007
  2. ^ Wang K, Li H, Ecker J. "Ethylene biosynthesis and signaling networks". Plant Cell 14 Suppl: S131–51. PMID 12045274. 
  3. ^ “Production: Growth is the Norm” Chemical and Engineering News, July 1 0, 2006, p. 59.
  4. ^ a b c "OECD SIDS Initial Assessment Profile - Ethylene" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  5. ^ Elschenbroich, C.; Salzer, A. (2006). Organometallics : A Concise Introduction (2nd ed.). Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. ISBN 3-527-28165-7. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Kniel, Ludwig; Winter, Olaf; Stork, Karl (1980). Ethylene, keystone to the petrochemical industry. New York: M. Dekker. ISBN 0-8247-6914-7. 
  7. ^ Informational Bulletin. 12. California Fresh Market Advisory Board. June 1, 1976. 
  8. ^ Korzun, Mikołaj (1986). 1000 słów o materiałach wybuchowych i wybuchu. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. ISBN 83-11-07044-X. OCLC 69535236. 
  9. ^ Julius B. Cohen (1930). Practical Organic Chemistry (preparation 5). Macmillan. 
  10. ^ Crimmins, M. T.; Kim-Meade, A. S. "Ethylene" in Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis (Ed: L. Paquette) 2004, J. Wiley & Sons, New York. DOI: 10.1002/047084289.
  11. ^ "Ethylene:UV/Visible Spectrum". NIST Webbook. Retrieved 2006-09-27. 
  12. ^ a b c Lin, Z.; Zhong, S. and Grierson, D., "Recent advances in ethylene research", J. Exp. Bot., 2009, 60, 3311-3336.doi:10.1093/jxb/erp204
  13. ^ Neljubov D. (1901). "Uber die horizontale Nutation der Stengel von Pisum sativum und einiger anderen Pflanzen". Beih Bot Zentralbl 10: 128–139. 
  14. ^ Doubt, Sarah L. (1917). "The Response of Plants to Illuminating Gas". Botanical Gazette 63 (3): 209–224. doi:10.1086/332006. 
  15. ^ Gane R. (1934 id =). "Production of ethylene by some fruits". Nature 134: 1008. 
  16. ^ Crocker W, Hitchcock AE, Zimmerman PW. 1935 Similarities in the effects of ethlyene and the plant auxins. Contrib. Boyce Thompson Inst. 7. 231-48. Auxins Cytokinins IAA Growth substances, Ethylene
  17. ^ Yang, S. F., and Hoffman N. E. (1984). "Ethylene biosynthesis and its regulation in higher plants". Ann. Rev. Plant Physiol. 35: 155–89. doi:10.1146/annurev.pp.35.060184.001103. 
  18. ^ Van Doorn, W. G. (2002). "Effect of ethylene on flower abscission: a survey". Annals of Botany 89 (6): 689–693. doi:10.1093/aob/mcf124. PMID 12102524 : 12102524. 
  19. ^ Cassells, A. C.; Peter B. Gahan (2006). Dictionary of plant tissue culture. Haworth Press. pp. 77. ISBN 1560229195, 9781560229193. 
  20. ^ Constabel, Friedrich; Jerry P. Shyluk (1994). "1: Initiation, Nutrition, and Maintenance of Plant Cell and Tissue Cultures". Plant Cell and Tissue Culture. Springer. pp. 5. ISBN 0792324935. 
  21. ^ John Roach (2001-08-14). "Delphic Oracle's Lips May Have Been Loosened by Gas Vapors". National Geographic. Retrieved March 8, 2007. 
  22. ^ p. 611, A treatise on chemistry, Henry Enfield Roscoe and Carl Schorlemmer, Appleton, 1878, vol. 1.
  23. ^ p. 225, A History of Chemistry: From the Earliest Times Till the Present Day, James Campbell Brown, reprint ed., Kessinger Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1428638318.
  24. ^ Appendix, §VIII, pp. 474 ff., Experiments and observations relating to the various branches of natural philosophy: with a continuation of the observations on air, Joseph Priestley, London: printed for J. Johnson, 1779, vol. 1.
  25. ^ p. 612, Roscoe and Schorlemmer 1878.
  26. ^ p. 613, Roscoe and Schorlemmer 1878; p. 157, Handbook of organic chemistry: for the use of students, William Gregory, ed. J. Milton Sanders, 4th American ed., New York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1857.
  27. ^ A. W. Hofmann, LL.D., F.R.S.. "Hofmann's Proposal for Systematic Nomenclature of the Hydrocarbons". Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  28. ^ IUPAC nomenclature rule A-3.1 (1979)
  29. ^ Footnote to IUPAC nomenclature rule R-9.1, table 19(b)
  30. ^ Heinz Zimmermann and Roland Walz "Ethylene" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2009, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a10_045.pub3

Appendix: ethylene production facilities

Alberta, Canada

Ontario, Canada

Louisiana, United States

Texas, United States

Nanhai, China

  • Nanhai, Nanhai, (Shell Chemical), not available kta ethylene

Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar

Texas, United States

Further reading

Ethylene hormone receptor action in Arabidopsis. Chang C, Stadler R. Bioessays. 2001 Jul;23(7):619-27. Review. PMID: 11462215

Differential petiole growth in Arabidopsis thaliana: photocontrol and hormonal regulation. Millenaar FF, van Zanten M, Cox MC, Pierik R, Voesenek LA, Peeters AJ. New Phytol. 2009 Jun 24. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 19558423

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ETHYLENE, or Ethene, C 2 H 41 or H 2 C:CH 2, the first representative of the series of olefine hydrocarbons, is found in coal gas. It is usually prepared by heating a mixture of ethyl alcohol and sulphuric acid. G. S. Newth (Jour. Chem. Soc., 1901, 79, p. 915) obtains a purer product by dropping ethyl alcohol into syrupy phosphoric acid (sp. gr. 1.75) warmed to 200° C., subsequently raising the temperature to 220° C. It can also be obtained by the action of sodium on ethylidene chloride (B. Tollens, Ann., 1866, 137, p. 311); by the reduction of copper acetylide with zinc dust and ammonia; by heating ethyl bromide with an alcoholic solution of caustic potash; by passing a mixture of carbon bisulphide and sulphuretted hydrogen over red-hot copper; and by the electrolysis of a concentrated solution of potassium succinate, (CH2 CO 2 K) 2 +2H 2 O = C2H4+2C02 +2KOH +H2.

It is a colourless gas of somewhat sweetish taste; it is slightly soluble in water, but more so in alcohol and ether. It can be liquefied at-1 I° C., under a pressure of 422 atmos. It solidifies at-181° C. and melts at-169° C. (K. Olszewski); it boils at -105° C. (L. P. Cailletet), or-102° to-103° C. (K. Olszewski). Its critical temperature is r3° C., and its specific gravity is o 9784 (air= I). The specific gravity of liquid ethylene is o 386 (3° C.). Ethylene burns with a bright luminous flame, and forms a very explosive mixture with oxygen. For the combustion of ethylene see Flame. On strong heating it decomposes, giving, among other products, carbon, methane and acetylene (M. Berthelot, Ann., 1866, 1 39, p. 2 77). Being an unsaturated hydrocarbon, it is capable of forming addition products, e.g. it combines with hydrogen in the presence of platinum black, to form ethane, C 2 H 6, with sulphur trioxide to form carbyl sulphate, C2H4(S03)2, with hydrobromic and hydriodic acids at 100° C. to form ethyl bromide, C 2 H 5 Br, and ethyl iodide, C 2 H 5 I, with sulphuric acid at 160-170° C. to form ethyl sulphuric acid, C 2 H 5 HSO 4, and with hypochlorous acid to form glycol chlorhydrin, Cl CH2 CH2.OH. Dilute potassium permanganate solution oxidizes it to ethylene glycol, HO CH 2 CH 2. OH, whilst fuming nitric acid converts it into oxalic acid. Several compounds of ethylene and metallic chlorides are known; e.g. ferric chloride in the presence of ether at 1So° C. gives C 2 H 4 FeC1 3.2H 2 O (J. Kachtler, Ber., 1869, 2, p. 510), while platinum bichloride in concentrated hydrochloric acid solution absorbs ethylene, forming the compound C2H4 PtCl2 (K. Birnbaum, Ann., 1868, 1 45, p. 69).

Etienne, Charles Guillaume (1778-1845), French dramatist and miscellaneous writer, was born near Saint Dizier, Haute Marne, on the 5th of January 1778. He held various municipal offices under the Revolution and came in 1796 to Paris, where he produced his first opera, Le Reve, in 1799, in collaboration with Antoine Frederic Gresnick. Although Etienne continued to write for the Paris theatres for twenty years from that date, he is remembered chiefly as the author of one comedy, which excited considerable controversy. Les Deux Gendres was represented at the Theatre Francais on the 11th of August 1810, and procured for its author a seat in the Academy. A rumour was put in circulation that Etienne had drawn largely on a manuscript play in the imperial library, entitled Conaxa, cm les gendres dupes. His rivals were not slow to take up the charge of plagiarism, to which Etienne replied that the story was an old one (it existed in an old French fabliau) and had already been treated by Alexis Piron in Les Fils ingrats. He was, however, driven later to make admissions which at least showed a certain lack of candour. The bitterness of the attacks made on him was no doubt in part due to his position as editor-in-chief of the official Journal de l'Empire. His next play, L'Intrigante (1812), hardly maintained the high level of Les Deux Gendres; the patriotic opera L'Orifiamme and his lyric masterpiece Joconde date from 1814. Etienne had been secretary to Hugues Bernard Maret, duc de Bassano, and in this capacity had accompanied Napoleon throughout his campaigns in Italy, Germany, Austria and Poland. During these journeys he produced one of his best pieces, Brueys et Palaprat (1807). During the Restoration Etienne was an active member of the opposition. He was seven times returned as deputy for the department of Meuse, and was in full sympathy with the revolution of 1830, but the reforms actually carried out did not fulfil his expectations, and he gradually retired from public life. Among his other plays may be noted: Les Deux Meres, Le Pacha de Suresnes, and La Petite Ecole des peres, all produced in 1802, in collaboration with his friend Gaugiran de Nanteuil (1778-1830). With Alphonse Dieudonne Martainville (1779-1830) he wrote an Histoire du Theatre Franrais (4 vols., 1802) during the revolutionary period. Etienne was a bitter opponent of the romanticists, one of whom, Alfred de Vigny, was his successor and panegyrist in the Academy. He died on the 13th of March 1845.

His CEuvres (6 vols., 1846-1853) contain a notice of the author by L. Thiesse.

<< Ethyl chloride

Etiquette >>

Simple English

Molecular formula C2H4
Molar mass 28.05 g/mol
Appearance colorless gas
Density and phase 1.178 kg/m³ at 15 °C, gas
Solubility in water 3.5 mg/100 ml (17 °C)
Melting point −169.2 °C (104.0 K, -272.6 °F)
Boiling point −103.7 °C (169.5 K, -154.7 °F)
Symmetry group D2h
Dipole moment Zero

Ethylene or ethene is a chemical compound with two carbon atoms and four hydrogen atoms in each molecule. These molecules are put together with a double bond that makes it a hydrocarbon. It is very important in industry and has even been used in biology as a hormone. [1] It is also the most made chemical. About 75 million tons of it have been made each year since 2005. [2]



Since 1795, ethylene was called an olefiant gas, or oil making gas. This was because it came together with chlorine to make the oil of the Dutch chemists.

In 1866, the German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann came up with a system for naming hydrocarbons. The suffixes -ane, -ene, -ine, -one, and -une were used to call the hydrocarbons with 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 fewer hydrogen atoms than the alkane it came from.[3] Because of this system, ethylene became ethene.

In 1979, the IUPAC decided that ethylene would stay ethylene.

How it is made

Ethylene is made in the chemical industry by steam cracking. Some of the parts of an ethylene plant can be:

  1. The steam cracking furnaces;
  2. Heat recovery systems;
  3. A steam recycling system;
  4. A system to compress the cracked gas;
  5. A system to remove acid gas;

There are other systems in an ethylene plant. The systems listed above were the most important systems in an ethylene plant.

Since making ethylene uses a lot of energy, the people making the ethylene try very hard to keep the heat from the gasses from leaving the furnaces.


  1. Wang K, Li H, Ecker J. [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Ethylene biosynthesis and signaling networks."]. Plant Cell 14 Suppl: S131-51. PMID 12045274. 
  2. “Production: Growth is the Norm” Chemical and Engineering News, July 1 0, 2006, p. 59.
  3. A. W. Hofmann, LL.D., F.R.S.. "Hofmann's Proposal for Systematic Nomenclature of the Hydrocarbons". Retrieved 2007-01-06. 

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