|File:Ethylene glycol chemical|
|Other names|| ethylene glycol, monoethylene glycol|
1,2-ethanediol, MEG, glycol
|Molar mass||62.068 g/mol|
−12.9 °C (260 K)
197.3 °C (470 K)
|Solubility in water|| Miscible with water|
in all proportions.
|Viscosity||1.61 × 10−2 N*s / m2|
|EU classification||Harmful (Xn)|
|Flash point||111 °C (closed cup)|
|Related diols||Propylene glycol, diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol|
|Supplementary data page|
| Structure and|
|n, εr, etc.|
| Phase behaviour|
Solid, liquid, gas
|Spectral data||UV, IR, NMR, MS|
| Except where noted otherwise, data are given for|
materials in their standard state
(at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Ethylene glycol (IUPAC name: ethane-1,2-diol) is an organic compound widely used as an automotive antifreeze and a precursor to polymers. In its pure form, it is an odorless, colorless, syrupy, sweet tasting liquid.
Ethylene glycol was first prepared in 1859 by the French chemist Charles-Adolphe Wurtz from ethylene glycol diacetate via saponification with potassium hydroxide and, in 1860, from the hydration of ethylene oxide. There appears to have been no commercial manufacture or application of ethylene glycol prior to World War I, when it was synthesized from ethylene dichloride in Germany and used as a substitute for glycerol in the explosives industry.
In the United States, semicommercial production of ethylene glycol via ethylene chlorohydrin was started in 1917. The first large-scale commercial glycol plant was erected in 1925 at South Charleston, West Virginia,, by Carbide and Carbon Chemicals Co. (now Union Carbide Corp.). By 1929, ethylene glycol was being used by almost all dynamite manufacturers.
In 1937, Carbide started up the first plant based on Lefort's process for vapor-phase oxidation of ethylene to ethylene oxide. Carbide maintained a monopoly on the direct oxidation process until 1953 when the Scientific Design process was commercialized and offered for licenes.
This molecule has been observed in space.
This reaction can be catalyzed by either acids or bases, or can occur at neutral pH under elevated temperatures. The highest yields of ethylene glycol occur at acidic or neutral pH with a large excess of water. Under these conditions, ethylene glycol yields of 90% can be achieved. The major byproducts are the ethylene glycol oligomers diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol, and tetraethylene glycol. About 6.7 billion kilograms are produced annually.
Approximately 60% of ethylene glycol is consumed for antifreeze, and the remainder is mainly used as a precursor to polymers. Because this material is cheaply available and relatively nontoxic, it finds many niche applications.
The major use of ethylene glycol is as a medium for convective heat transfer in, for example, automobiles and liquid cooled computers. Ethylene glycol is also commonly used in chilled water air conditioning systems that place either the chiller or air handlers outside, or systems that must cool below the freezing temperature of water. In geothermal heating/cooling systems, ethylene glycol is the fluid that transports heat through the use of a geothermal heat pump. The ethylene glycol either gains energy from the source (lake, ocean, water well) or dissipates heat to the source, depending if the system is being used for heating or cooling.
Due to its low freezing point and tendency to form glasses, ethylene glycol resists freezing. The freezing point of a mixture of 60% ethylene glycol and 40% water freezes below -45 °C. Diethyleneglycol behaves similarly. It is used as a deicing fluid for windshields and aircraft. The antifreeze capabilities of ethylene glycol have made it an important component of vitrification mixtures for low-temperature preservation of biological tissues and organs.
In the plastics industry, ethylene glycol is important precursor to polyester fibers and resins. Polyethylene terephthalate, used to make plastic bottles for soft drinks, is prepared from ethylene glycol.
Because of its high boiling point and affinity for water, ethylene glycol is a useful desiccant. Ethylene glycol is widely used to inhibit the formation of natural gas clathrates (hydrates) in long multiphase pipelines that convey natural gas from remote gas fields to an onshore processing facility. Ethylene glycol can be recovered from the natural gas and reused as an inhibitor after purification treatment that removes water and inorganic salts.
Natural gas is dehydrated by ethylene glycol. In this application, ethylene glycol flows down from the top of a tower and meets a rising mixture of water vapor and hydrocarbon gases. Dry gas exits from the top of the tower. The glycol and water are separated, and the glycol recycled. Instead of removing water, ethylene glycol can also be used to depress the temperature at which hydrates are formed. The purity of glycol used for hydrate suppression (mono-ethylene glycol) is typically around 80%, whereas the purity of glycol used for dehydration (tri-ethylene glycol) is typically 95-99+%. Moreover, the injection rate for hydrate suppression is much lower than the circulation rate in a glycol dehydration tower.
Minor uses of ethylene glycol include the manufacture of capacitors, as a chemical intermediate in the manufacture of 1,4-dioxane and as an additive to prevent corrosion in liquid cooling systems for personal computers. Ethylene glycol is also used in the manufacture of some vaccines, but it is not itself present in these injections. It is used as a minor (1–2%) ingredient in shoe polish and also in some inks and dyes. Ethylene glycol has seen some use as a rot and fungal treatment for wood, both as a preventative and a treatment after the fact. It has been used in a few cases to treat partially rotted wooden objects to be displayed in museums. It is one of only a few treatments that are successful in dealing with rot in wooden boats, and is relatively cheap. Ethylene glycol may also be one of the minor ingredients in screen cleaning solutions, along with the main ingredient isopropyl alcohol. Ethylene glycol is commonly used as a preservative for specimens in schools, frequently during dissection. It is said to be safer than formaldehyde, but the safety is questionable.
Ethylene glycol is used as a protecting group for carbonyl groups in organic synthesis. Treating a ketone or aldehyde with ethylene glycol in the presence of an acid catalyst (e.g., p-toluenesulfonic acid; BF3•Et2O) gives the corresponding a 1,3-dioxolane, which is resistant to bases and other nucleophiles. The 1,3-dioxolane protecting group can thereafter be removed by further acid hydrolysis. In this example, isophorone was protected using ethylene glycol with p-toluenesulfonic acid in moderate yield. Water was removed by azeotropic distillation to shift the equilibrium to the right.
The major danger from ethylene glycol is ingestion as it is somewhat toxic with [[LD50] = ]1.4 g/kg for humans. Due to its sweet taste, children and animals will sometimes consume large quantities of it if given access to antifreeze. Upon ingestion, ethylene glycol is oxidized to glycolic acid which is, in turn, oxidized to oxalic acid, which is toxic. It and its toxic byproducts first affect the central nervous system, then the heart, and finally the kidneys. Ingestion of sufficient amounts can be fatal.
Ethylene glycol can begin to break down at 230° – 250°F (110° – 121°C). Note that breakdown can occur when the system bulk (average) temperature is below these limits, because surface temperatures in heat exchangers and boilers can be locally well above these temperatures.
The electrolysis of ethylene glycol solutions with a silver anode results in an exothermic reaction. In the Apollo 1 fire catastrophe a coolant consisting of ethylene glycol and water was implicated as a possible cause via this reaction.