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Properties, Production and Chemical Reactions of Ethene (Ethylene) Chemistry Tutorial

Key Concepts

Properties of Ethene (ethylene)

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Reactions of Ethene (ethylene)

Ethene (ethylene) undergoes complete combustion in excess oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water.

Ethene (ethylene) undergoes addition reactions with:

The chemical reactions of ethene (ethylene) are summarised in the table below:

Addition of Bromine CH2=CH2 + Br2 CH2Br-CH2Br

Addition of Chlorine CH2=CH2 + Cl2 AlCl3

Addition of Hydrogen bromide CH2=CH2 + HBr AlCl3

Addition of Hydrogen chloride CH2=CH2 + HCl AlCl3

Addition of Hydrogen CH2=CH2 + H2 Ni


Addition of Water CH2=CH2 + H2O H3PO4


Complete Combustion CH2=CH2 + 3O2 excess O2

2CO2 + 2H2O

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Uses of Ethene (ethylene)

Ethene, ethylene, is an important chemical in the production of other chemicals.
Some of the uses of ethene (ethylene) in industry are given in the table below:

Production of Polythene (polyethylene) nCH2=CH2 catalyst

high pressure

Production of Industrial Alcohol
CH2=CH2 (1) H2SO4


Production of 1,2-ethanediol
(ethylene glycol)
CH2=CH2 (1) O2/catalyst

(2) H2O

Production of Styrene
styrene can be polymerised to form polystyrene
CH2=CH2 benzene

Production of chloroethane
chloroethane is used to manufacture tetraethyl lead
tetraethyl lead is the lead additive in leaded petrol
CH2=CH2 + HCl CH3-CH2Cl

Ethene is also used as a plant hormone to control the ripening and colour development of fruit

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Production of Ethene (ethylene)

Ethene can be produced either by:

  1. Extraction from natural gas using fractional distillation followed by steam cracking (the technique for converting alkanes to alkenes)(750 - 900°C) followed by liquefaction of the gas (-100°C) and then further fractional distillation


  2. Extraction from crude oil using fractional distillation followed by steam cracking (750 - 900°C) of the naphtha or gas-oil fractions followed by liquefaction of the gas (-100°C) and then further fractional distillation.

The cracking process typically involves endothermic equilibrium reactions such as:

To maximize the rate of the cracking reactions:

To maximize the yield of ethene, by Le Chetalier's Principle:

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