About Acetone – History, Properties, Production & Uses - WorldOfChemicals

What is Acetone?- History, Properties, Production and Uses


Acetone is an organic element with formula (CH3)2CO. Acetone consists of three carbon, six hydrogens and one oxygen atom. Acetone comes under the categories of ketones, which are organic compounds with a carbonyl group bonded to two hydrocarbon groups. Acetone is a general building block in organic chemistry. In the human body, it is normally present in blood and urine.

History of Acetone

Acetone was first discovered during the middle Ages by alchemists, where it was called as “spirit of Saturn”. It was French chemist Jean Baptiste Dumas and German chemist Justus von Liebig, who determined acetone chemical formula. French chemist in 1833, named acetone, by adding one- suffix to the stem of the corresponding acetic acid. By 1852, Alexander William Williamson, an English chemist concluded that acetone is a methyl acetate and in the same year it was agreed/concurred by a French chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt. Chaim Weizmann, during World War 1, introduced the process for industrial production of acetone known as Weizmann Process.

Acetone Properties

Physical Properties of Acetone:

  1. Acetone boiling point- 56.05 degree Celsius

  2. Melting point- -94.8 degree Celsius

  3. Appearance- Colorless liquid

  4. Taste- Sweetish in taste

  5. Odor- Fruity, pungent, irritating

  6. Solubility- Miscible with water, benzene, methanol, ethanol, diethyl ether, chloroform

  7. Density- 0.7845 g/cm3

Chemical Properties of Acetone:

  1. Molecular weight- 58.08 g/mol

  2. Acidity- 19.2 pKa

  3. Basicity- -5.2 for conjugate base

  4. Refractive Index- 1.35 nD.

Acetone Production

The United States has the highest production capacity of acetone, nearly 1.70 million tonnes per year, followed by Taiwan and China. The largest acetone producing company is INEOS Phenol, which owns around 17% of the world’s capacity, followed by Mitsui, Sunoco, and shell.

Traditional Method

In early days, acetone was produced out of dry distillation of acetates compounds, like calcium acetate in ketonic decarboxylation.

Ca (CH3COO)2 CaO (s) + CO2 (g)+ (CH3)2CO (v)

During World War 1, acetone was manufactured using fermentation of acetone butanol ethanol with bacteria Clostridium acetobutylicium, which was introduced by Chaim Weizmann. This method was later abandoned when newer methods came into action with better yields.

Current Method

Acetone now is directly or indirectly formed through the use of propylene. Approx. 83 percentages of acetone are manufactured using the cumene process. In the cumene process, benzene is alkylated with propylene in order to form compound cumene, which is in later stage oxidized by air for the production of phenol and acetone.

Other processes like Wacker Hoechst process, includes oxidation or the hydration of propylene compound for the formation of 2-propanol, which is in the later stage oxidized to form acetone.

Acetone Uses

Around a third of the world’s acetone produced is used as a solvent and a quarter is consumed as acetone cyanohydrin.

  1. Solvent: Acetone acts as a good solvent for many plastics and synthetic fibers. Acetone is used for thinning polyester resin, cleansing equipment used and for melting epoxies and superglues before they get hardened. It is utilized as one among the volatile components of some paints and varnishes. It is used in the manufacturing of metal before painting as a heavy duty degreaser. It is used as a solvent in the pharmaceutical industry and in denatured alcohol as a denaturant. In some pharmaceutical drugs, it is present as an excipient. Being inflammable, acetone is still used as a solvent for safe transportation of acetylene.

  2. Chemical intermediate: Acetone is used for synthesizing methyl methacrylate. The next major usage of acetone is in synthesizing bisphenol AMillion Kgs of acetone is utilized in the methyl isobutyl alcohol and methyl isobutyl ketone solvents manufacturing.

  3. Medical and Cosmetic usage: Acetone is used in various medical and cosmetic applications. It is also filed as a compound in food additives, food packaging and in nail paint remover. It is also used by dermatologists with alcohol for the treatments of acne. Acetone is generally used in chemical peeling.

  4. Laboratory: In the labs, acetone is utilized as a polar and aprotic solvent in various organic reactions. In jones oxidation reaction also use of acetone as a solvent is crucial. Acetone is commonly used as a solvent for washing off labs glassware due to its cheap cost and volatility. Acetone gives fluorescent reflection when it is under an ultraviolet light, which is why its vapor can be utilized as a tracer of fluorescent in fluid flow test.

  5. Domestic and other uses: Acetone is a basic component in nail polish remover. It is used for superglue remover and it also easily removes glass and porcelain residues. It is used by makeup experts for removing skin adhesives. Acetone is utilized as vapor polishing agents in printing artifacts on 3D printed structures along with ABS plastic.

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