Ethylene oxide

Features of Ethylene oxide

Ethylene, C2H4O, is a toxic and flammable gas.

Physical and chemical properties

Physical state: Liquefied gas
Molecular weight: 44 g/mol
Smell: Ethereal, hardly noticeable at low concentrations
Appearance/color: colorless



Ethylene oxide is used:

  • as reagent for some chemical/pharmaceutical synthesis reactions (surfactants);
  • mixed with carbon dioxide (CO2), as sterilizer for disposable medical equipment.

Stability and reactivity

It can reacts violently with alkali.
It can decompose violently at high temperature and/or pressure or in the presence of catalysts. 
It can polymerize. 
It is usually spiked into inhibitors.
It can form explosive mixtures with the air.
The container is generally pressurized at 5-7 bar with nitrogen.