Structure and properties of ethylene glycol

The molecular structure of ethylene glycol is C₂H₆0₂. Its molecular formula is also written as HOCH₂CH₂OH, C₂H₆0₂, (CH₂OH)₂. Also named as ethane-1,2-diol. An alcohol that consists of two hydroxyl groups on adjacent carbon atoms is termed as glycol i.e. 1,2-diol. The name ethylene glycol literally means glycol derived from ethylene. This is a slightly viscous liquid, sweet, clear and boils at temperature 198 °C. Ethylene glycol and water solution with ratio 1:1 is boils at 129 °C or 264.2 °F temperature and freezes at −37 °C or −34.6 °F temperature, used in automotive radiators as an outstanding coolant. The compound is highly toxic and if humans or animals drink the solution, it can cause deadly effects. In addition to the use of ethylene glycol as an antifreeze, it is the main component in printing inks, paint solvents and hydraulic fluids. Additionally, it has its applications in polyesters synthesis, explosives, alkyl resins and synthetic waxes as a reagent.

Preparation of ethylene glycol
Among the class of dihydroxy alcohols, ethylene glycols, dihydric alcohols or diols is a prominent member. The methods of preparation of ethylene glycol are:

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The first method of ethylene glycol synthesis by the ethylene hydroxylation. When ethylene is treated with Baeyer’s reagent (cold dilute alkaline solution of potassium permanganate), hydroxylation takes place at both the carbon atoms.

Secondly, the hydrolysis of ethylene oxide is done for ethylene glycol production. Catalytic oxidation of ethylene is done to give ethylene oxide and further at high temperature in the presence of dilute acid or base hydrolyzed to obtain ethylene glycol as product.

The reduction of oxalic esters with the sodium and alcohol produce the ethylene glycol as product.

Uses of ethylene glycol
The freezing of a car engine in winter and to lessen overheating in summer, the ethylene glycol is used as a coolant. Many commercial and industrial applications of it includes antifreeze and coolant.  Among the significant usages, heat transfer fluids used as industrial coolants for gas compressors, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning systems, ice skating rinks are other ethylene glycol applications. It is also a raw material in a broad range of production as polyester fibers for clothes, upholstery; polyethylene terephthalate resin for packaging film and bottles; fiberglass used in products such as bowling balls, bathtubs, and jet skis. Though, ethylene glycol has many diverse applications, but it is also toxic and known deadly poison. The main practice of ethylene glycol is in the plastic resin polyethylene terephthalate production used in beverage containers for soda, water, and juice. In the manufacturing of ballpoint pens inks and other inks. The use of ethylene glycol in inks increases its viscosity and helps to abandon the evaporation. In chemical synthesis, it is used as a protecting group in organic synthesis for carbonyl groups. The ethylene glycol when treated with a ketone or aldehyde in the presence of an acid catalyst gives 1,3-dioxolane as product that resistant to bases or nucleophiles. The protecting group 1,3-dioxolane can afterward remove by the acid hydrolysis.

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