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Propane: Formula, Properties & Uses

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  • 0:00 Propane: Formula and…
  • 1:43 Uses of Propane
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

Propane is a chemical compound that's essential in our everyday lives because of its many uses, not only inside our homes but also in different industries as well. In this lesson, we'll discuss propane and its different uses and properties.

Propane: Formula and Properties

If you've ever hosted a barbecue get-together, or have a fireplace in your home, chances are you've encountered propane. Most of us commonly know propane as the fuel in a gas container that we use with our grill. However, propane has many other uses, which we will discuss later on.

Propane is a chemical compound that is made of three carbon (C) atoms and eight hydrogen (H) atoms, so its chemical formula is C3H8. It's classified as an alkane, which are compounds that consist only of hydrogen and carbon atoms with single bonds.

Propane is a nontoxic and flammable substance, and in its natural sate, is an odorless and colorless gas. When we grill outside, we would often smell propane, and this is only because a commercial odorant has been added to propane for safety so that we can easily detect when there is leakage.

Even though propane is normally in a gaseous state, with the appropriate amount of pressure, propane can be liquefied. Propane is stored and transported in liquid form, and it only becomes a gas when it is released from the container.

The boiling point of propane is -44 degrees Farenheit, so it obviously doesn't take much to get it roiling. The specific gravity is the comparison of density between an object and a reference substance. The specific gravity of propane gas is 1.52 compared to air, so it's actually denser than air. The specific gravity of propane liquid compared to water is 0.51. This means that propane is less dense than water, so it will not sink in water.

Uses of Propane

A lot of us know and have used propane as the fuel to ignite our grills when we need to barbecue. However, propane has other uses not only in our household, but also in other fields as well. In this section, we'll take a look at the different uses of propane.

Residential and Commercial Use

Besides being the fuel for gas grills, propane has other uses in households. In some households, propane is used as the main heating source - it's used to heat water so that we can enjoy a nice hot shower, as well as the gas for our stoves when we cook, and as the fuel in the gas fireplaces we light up on a cold winter night.

Patio heaters are a great comfort if you are outside in your backyard or enjoying a cup of coffee on your front porch on a snowy day. Propane powers the patio heaters to help keep us warm on cool evenings and mornings. There are also hot spas or hot tub heaters that make use of propane to warm the water to a nice temperature. There are also clothes dryers that are fueled by propane, having an advantage over the normal electric dryers because it dries clothes more efficiently and cuts drying time in half.

Alternative Fuel for Transportation

There are vehicles that use propane as fuel instead of the more common gasoline and diesel fuel. Automobile and truck manufacturers are now producing more vehicles that make use of engines fueled by propane. There are two types of vehicles that use propane: dedicated and bi-fuel. Dedicated propane vehicles run solely on propane and bi-fuel propane vehicles can use either propane or gasoline.

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