Ethylene glycol

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Glycol
Hypodicarbonous acid

−12.9 °C, 260 K, 9 °F

197.3 °C, 470 K, 387 °F

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 is toxic, and ingestion can result in death.

Ethylene glycol is not to be confused with diethylene glycol, a heavier ether diol, or with polyethylene glycol, a nontoxic polyether polymer.

Contents

Production

Historical aspects and natural occurrence

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 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.

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