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Chemical industry: Trapping of acetylene contaminants

August 31, 2020 / Sciencedaily

Ethylene is the most important chemical precursor for ethanol and polyethylene and is mainly produced by steam cracking. Although the ethylene fraction is usually very pure (more than 99%), remaining traces of acetylene contaminants can destroy the catalysts used in downstream processes. As ethylene and acetylene are very similar and only differ in the amount of hydrogen atoms -- ethylene has four hydrogen atoms bound to two carbon atoms, acetylene has two -- the separation of both gases is elaborate and difficult. The current industrial processes rely on distillation, which consumes a huge amount of energy.