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Commercially Viable Uses of Acetylene – Part I

Acetylene production plants produce acetylene for various industrial and commercial purposes. Acetylene gas features properties that make it an extremely useful gas in various applications and industries. Acetylene is mainly manufactured for chemical synthesis. The second most common application of acetylene is welding and cutting.

Commercial Uses of Acetylene

Acetylene forms an important part of many crucial processes in industries. Although the current uses of acetylene are few, the scope is not limited. In-depth research is being conducted in this regard to ensure utilization of this resource in the most beneficial manner possible. Acetylene is an important natural gas that is put to various uses including:

  1. Portable Lighting
  2. In the late 1800s, acetylene was for the first time used to light a portable lamp known as a carbide or acetylene gas lamp. These lamps were installed on cars, in homes, on bicycles, etc. They were also used extensively by miners. In some cases, acetylene was used to light some cities and towns.

    In the lamps, calcium carbide and water are used to produce acetylene. The flow of the acetylene is carefully monitored to control the amount of acetylene used. The amount of acetylene used has a direct effect on the intensity of the light. Many hunters or cavers still use these lamps for terrain activities.

  3. Welding, Cutting, and Heat Treating
  4. Acetylene is used for welding and cutting. The welding process that uses acetylene is known as oxy-fuel cutting or gas cutting. This method is used to cut or weld materials that require temperatures as high as 3,500 °C (6,330 °F). Among all other gases, acetylene is capable of producing the hottest flame. For this reason, acetylene serves as an important medium for heat treating metals and other materials. Acetylene is used in automotive part manufacturing as well as fabrication of other metal parts where accuracy is crucial.

  5. Production of Chemicals
  6. Chemical synthesis is a major application of acetylene. Acetylene is used to produce several inorganic compounds. It is used in the synthesis of certain vitamins like Vitamin A and E. It can also be used to produce certain components of perfumes, solvents, etc. it is used to produce acetic acid, 1,4-butanediol (BDO), several acetylenic alcohols, etc. In production of these chemicals and vitamins, the purity levels of acetylene should be strictly maintained.

  7. Used in Production of Polyethylene Plastics
  8. Polyethylene plastics, PVC and PVDF are produced from ethylene or methane, which are in turn derived from acetylene. Another production process comprises mixing acetylene with other chemicals or elements like chlorine, hydrochloric acid, etc. to produce different variants of plastic like PVC, PVDF, etc. These plastics are commonly used to fabricate several household and commercial products.

Importance of Purity of Acetylene

Acetylene can react with oxygen or impurities causing massive explosions. Hence, the production process should be flawless. During the production process, if the acetylene is not completely pure, the resultant product could change dramatically. Maintaining the purity of the acetylene produced is vital. Depending on the process, some allowances can be made with regard to the quality of the acetylene produced. For instance, the acetylene used in chemical synthesis should not contain more than 0.5% of impurities. This acetylene is known as Grade A acetylene. For oxy-cutting or heat treating processes the acetylene used is of a lower grade. Grade B acetylene can contain up to 2% impurities. These gases can be further processed and refined to produce an extremely pure gas.

Acetylene in any form, whether solid or liquid, is extremely explosive. Hence, extreme care should be taken when manufacturing acetylene or using it to produce chemicals, or other products. For the same reason, cautious handling of acetylene cylinders is recommended. The control equipment used during acetylene production or processing should be handled carefully as well.

Acetylene forms an important part of our daily lives. Several key products are produced using this gas. It also helps in the production of some vital chemicals that serve as raw materials for important products. Thus, acetylene forms an integral part of several industries.



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