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A colorless hydrocarbon gas with an ether-like odor. Acetylene was used for theater lighting prior to electric lights because it burned brightly giving off over 10 times more illumination than other gases. When mixed with Oxygen, the fuel burns with an intensely hot flame that is used for welding, cutting, and soldering metals. Acetylene is also used to synthesize polymeric precursors such as Vinyl chloride, Vinylidene chloride, Vinyl acetate, and acrylates.

Synonyms and Related Terms

ethyne; ethine; gaseous carbon; acetileno (Port.);


  • Toxic by asphyxiation.
  • Explosive under pressure or in air. Flash point = -17.7C (0F)
  • Reacts with copper and silver to form explosive metal salts.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in water, ethanol and acetone. It is often sold dissolved in acetone in order to make it non-explosive.

Composition C2H2
CAS 74-86-2
Boiling Point -84 to -81 C

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998

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