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4 Fun Facts About Acetylene Gas

Acetylene- a colourless gas used as a fuel and a chemical building block. It was discovered in 1836 by Edmond Davy, who referred to it as a new carburet of hydrogen, however it was rediscovered some years later in 1860 by a French chemist Marcellin Berthelot who coined the gases name and invented the formula.

Berthelot was able to prepare the gas by passing vapours of its compounds through a super-hot tube and then collecting the run-off. He also found it was created by sparkling electricity through cyanogen and hydrogen, but later began to create the gas by directly passing hydrogen between the poles of a carbon arc!

There are 3 ways to produce Acetylene; a reaction of water and calcium carbide, passage of hydrocarbon through an electric arc or by partial combustion of methane with air/oxygen.

Row of various gas cannisters

With an interesting discovery story, this gas also comes with some interesting other facts. While Acetylene is primarily used for welding and cutting, it also presents somewhat ‘niche’ applications.

How much do you really know about Acetylene?

Portable Lighting for Miners

Calcium carbide was used to generate acetylene which is used in portable lamps, often referred to as Carbide lamps. These lamps were useful for miners and cavers before the obvious widespread use of incandescent lighting and LED lighting.

However, it is still used by some mining industries in some nations and still employed by some cavers today because of their durability and illumination. Some people prefer an ‘old-school approach’, plus they also provide heat, which is perfect for the cold conditions in a mine or cave.

Other Types of Lighting

Carbide lamps and Acetylene wasn’t just used for portable lighting- headlamps and such- they were also used for other widespread illumination. In the early 20th century it was used for street lamps, and earlier on, many automobiles used carbide lamps before electric headlights.

Carbide lamps were even used as an early light source for lighthouses! Who would’ve known?

Carbide mining lamps in ice cage Slovenia

Welding and Cutting

Around 20% of all Acetylene production is supplied for oxyacetylene gas welding due to the high temperatures of the flame produced- After all, Acetylene is the third hottest natural chemical flame.

Welding using Acetylene has dropped significantly, but on the other hand, the oxy-acetylene welding equipment is still used due to its versatility- not only is the torch preferred for iron and steel welding, but it also makes brazing, braze welding, metal heating, loosening of nuts and bolts much easier!

Some welders still use this method, using the gas due to either creative reasons or if electricity is not readily accessible. Oxy-fuel cutting is still popular in metal fabrication.

Metal Welding with sparks using Acetylene gas

Chemical Production

One other use for Acetylene is for chemical synthesis. A whopping 80% of Acetylene is used for chemical synthesis in fact!

The synthetic potential of this gas paves the way to various applications in the chemical industry such as with the production of perfume components, for polymer additives, solvents, surface active compounds and even for the production of vitamins including Vitamin A and E!

At Adams Gas, we pride ourselves on being experts on all our high-quality products and providing an exceptional service. While we can’t provide you with Acetylene, we can provide you with cutting and welding sets, as well as cutting nozzles, flashback arrestors, heating nozzles and hoses. We can also provide you with the perfect alternative for the possibly dangerous gas- propylene. You can find out more about this great substitute here.