Petroleum ether is a mixture of the higher alkane hydrocarbons obtained as a fraction of petroleum. Despite its name, the substance does not belong to ether class. The term is used only to emphasize its extreme lightness and volatility. The chemical is also known under the names light ligroin, light petroleum and pether. The CAS № for petroleum ether are 8032-32-4 and 8030-30-6.
Main Properties and Uses
Petroleum ether is a colorless, non-fluorescent liquid with gasoline-like odor. It is usually hydrodesulfurized, and sometimes hydrogenated to reduce the amount of aromatic and other unsaturated hydrocarbons. The substance is insoluble in water, but soluble in ethanol.
The chemical usually has the descriptive suffix providing the boiling range. This peculiarity gives chemists the possibility to buy petroleum ether for different uses with boiling ranges 30-50 °C, 40-60 °C, 50-70 °C, 60-80 °C, etc. This lightweight hydrocarbon is mainly used as nonpolar solvent by pharmaceutical companies, scientific laboratories and in the manufacturing process.
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Hazards and Safety Precautions
Petroleum ether has a very low flash point and due to this property poses a significant fire hazard. That’s why it is highly important to keep it away from any possible source of ignition and to secure storage temperature +2°C to +25°C.
This solvent may cause skin irritation and inhalation if its vapors lead to dizziness and drowsiness. Long-term exposure may cause serious health problems, specifically impaired fertility. When working with the substance, a person should wear suitable protective clothes and gloves. This chemical is toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term harmful effects, therefore, release to the environment should be avoided.