Ethyl acetate is a colorless liquid with sweet, fruity odor. This organic compound has chemical formula C4H8O2 and CAS number 141-78-6. Besides the alternative systematic IUPAC name ethyl ethanoate, it is sometimes called acetic ester or acetic ether.
The chemical melts at −83.6 °C and boils at 77.1 °C. Its density is 0.902 g/cm3 and molar mass is 88.11 g·mol−1. Ethyl acetate is soluble in water and fully miscible with ethanol, acetone, diethyl ether, benzene, and chloroform. The compound is usually prepared via the reaction between ethanol and acetic acid that is called Fischer esterification. Alternatively, it can be obtained by the dehydrogenation of ethanol.
Due to its properties, such as the ability to dissolve, pleasant scent and low toxicity, ethyl acetate has a wide variety of industrial and laboratory applications. It is used:
- in column chromatography and extractions;
- to decaffeinate coffee beans and tea leaves;
- in the manufacture of cosmetics (perfumes, nail polish remover, etc.);
- as an asphyxiant in entomological studies, since it can kill insects without destroying them;
- as an artificial flavor in the confections manufacture;
- in the fabrication of printing inks, and many others.
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Hazards and Safety
One of the main hazards connected with ethyl acetate is its extreme flammability. It ignites easily by flames, sparks and even heat. Its vapors are heavier than air and can form an explosive mixture with it. Container with the substance should be kept tightly closed and far from any possible heat source.
Though not toxic, the high concentrations of the vapor can irritate eyes and respiratory tract. The prolonged exposure may lead to corneal clouding and conjunctival irritation. That is why it is necessary to wear gloves, safety glasses, and a vapor respirator when working with the chemical.