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Acetylene: Formula & Structure

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  • 0:00 Acetylene: Definition…
  • 1:17 Structure & Formula
  • 2:44 Historical Uses
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Did you know welders use acetylene as a fuel gas in cutting torches? Learn more about this compound, including its formula, structure and historical uses in this lesson.

Acetylene: Definition and History

Did you know that acetylene can be used in plant cultivation? Yes, the chemical acetylene can help form new flowers. In 1836, the scientist Edmund Davy discovered it while he was experimenting with potassium carbide and producing a flammable gas. But it would take nearly 25 years before another scientist, Marcel Morren, learned how to generate acetylene while making an electronic arc in a hydrogen atmosphere.

Acetylene is a chemical compound composed of two carbon and two hydrogen atoms. It has a molecular weight of 26.04 g/mol and is slightly soluble in water. As a type of unsaturated hydrocarbon, acetylene is best known as the simplest of all alkynes. An unsaturated hydrocarbon is a molecule that has a double or triple bond between two carbon atoms. Alkyne is a functional group that contains carbon atoms joined together by a triple bond.

Acetylene is a colorless gas that has a very unique odor, similar to garlic. In its normal state, it can undergo a phase change from gas to liquid; but should you heat or allow liquid acetylene to come into contact with air, please be aware that it may explode.

Structure and Formula

The molecular formula of acetylene is quite easy to remember: C2H2. Its molecular structure is just as simple, as shown in this image:

Molecular Structure of Acetylene
molecular structure

Earlier we mentioned the functional group alkyne. Remember, what denotes acetylene as an alkyne is the presence of the triple carbon bond. Acetylene's triple bond is classified as a covalent bond, or one that forms when two atoms share electrons with one another. In relation to hybridization, this covalent bond contains one sigma and two pi bonds. Hybridization is the ability of atomic orbitals to form new atomic orbitals with one another. It not only influences the type of covalent bond being formed but also the properties of those bonds. Thus, the triple bonds in acetylene form from the overlap of the one sigma bond and two pi bonds.

What you're seeing below is the hybridized structure of acetylene:

Structure of Acetylene in Hybridized Form
orbital

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