From WikiMD's Food, Medicine & Wellness Encyclopedia


2-Propanone, commonly known as acetone, is an organic compound with the formula (CH₃)₂CO. It is the simplest and smallest ketone, and it is a colorless, highly volatile and flammable liquid with a characteristic pungent odor. Acetone is miscible with water and serves as an important solvent in its own right, typically for cleaning purposes in laboratories.

Properties[edit | edit source]

Acetone is a colorless liquid that has a distinct, sweetish odor. It has a boiling point of 56.05 °C (132.9 °F) and a melting point of -94.7 °C (-138.5 °F). Due to its structure, acetone is a polar molecule, which allows it to mix with water, alcohols, and many other organic solvents. Its volatility makes it an excellent solvent for the manufacture of plastics and synthetic fibers. It evaporates quickly, leaving little residue, which is why it is widely used for degreasing and cleaning in the industrial sector.

Production[edit | edit source]

The majority of acetone is produced via the Cumene Process, which involves the catalytic dehydrogenation of cumene (isopropylbenzene) to phenol and acetone. Other methods of production include the direct oxidation of propylene and as a by-product of phenol production.

Uses[edit | edit source]

Acetone's primary use is as a solvent in the production of plastics, fibers, and drugs. It is also used extensively in the pharmaceutical industry for synthesizing various medications and in the cosmetics industry, particularly in nail polish remover. In laboratories, acetone is used for cleaning glassware because of its ability to dissolve organic residues. Additionally, it is used in the preparation of metal before painting by degreasing surfaces.

Safety[edit | edit source]

While acetone is generally considered safe when used in small amounts, it can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities, ingested, or comes into prolonged contact with the skin. It can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, and prolonged exposure can lead to dermatitis. In the environment, acetone is not considered a significant pollutant due to its ability to break down in soil and water, as well as its rapid evaporation rate.

Environmental Impact[edit | edit source]

Acetone breaks down in both aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen) environments. In the atmosphere, it has a relatively short lifespan, as it is broken down by UV light and reacts with other chemicals. Its low boiling point and high vapor pressure contribute to its rapid evaporation when released into the environment, minimizing its long-term impact.


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD