The hydrocarbon we know at present days as benzene was first isolated in 1825 by English scientist Michael Faraday. He made some experiments on an oily film derived from the lightning gas and discovered the new compound with the equal number of carbons and hydrogens in its structure. Faraday named his discovery bicarburet of hydrogen, but this name did not come into use, the names benzol or benzene (according to IUPAC) are used instead.
The compound for a long time was a real enigma to the chemists. The formula of benzene C6H6 suggested a polyene structure of the chemical. However, it did not behave like all the other polyenes well known for their reactivity and was remarkably inert. Due to this fundamental difference and specific odor, all the benzene-like compounds were named aromatic compounds.
At the room temperature and pressure, benzene is a clear colorless to light-yellow color liquid with aromatic, gasoline-like odor. It is highly flammable; its flash point is only −11.63 °C. The chemical is less dense than water and slightly soluble in it but dissolves easily in organic solvents. Here are some more characteristics of the compound:
- CAS number: 71-43-2;
- Density: 0.8765(20) g/cm3;
- Boiling point of benzene: 80.1 °C;
- Melting point: 5.53 °C;
- Molar mass: 78.11 g·mol−1.
The first uses of benzene date back to the end of XIX and the beginning of XX century. At that time, the specific smell of this hydrocarbon was considered pleasant, and many men used it as aftershave. Later, German merchant Ludwig Roselius began to use the chemical to decaffeinate coffee.
At our times, this compound is primarily used as intermediate to produce other industrial chemicals, e.g. cumene, ethylbenzene, cyclohexane, etc. These chemicals, in their turn, take part in the manufacture of nylon, polystyrene, ABS, and other plastics and materials. In pharmaceutical and chemical industry, it is used as a solvent and is included in some types of dyes, drugs, pesticides and many other products.
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