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Major Applications of Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)

Published Date : June 04, 2018

Preamble:

Methyl ethyl ketone or butanone is a colorless liquid ketone compound that possesses an acute sweet odor resembling that of acetone and butterscotch. Butanones are organic compounds produced commercially on a very large scale and are generally employed as industrial solvents. They dissolve in water and are referred to as an effective and common solvent.

Production:

Synthetic synthesis procedures:

Oxidation process of 2-butanol would furnish methyl ethyl ketone which is immediately followed by dehydrogenation using catalysts like bronze, copper or zinc.  Consequently, butanone compounds are produced. The approximate production is around 700 million kilograms per year. The synthesis methodologies applied for the manufacture of acetone could be incorporated for methyl ethyl ketone compounds as well. However, they have not been implemented due to various reasons. The various processes used for the manufacture of methyl ethyl ketone include oxidation of isobutylbenzene and Wacker oxidation of 2-butene.  2-butanone is procured by fractionation from the liquid-phase oxidation of heavy naphtha and the Fischer-Tropsch reaction produce assorted oxygenate streams.

Biological synthesis and natural emission of methyl ethyl ketones:

Methyl ethyl ketone compounds are released to the atmosphere from car and truck exhausts. They are biologically manufactured by certain trees and are found in some fruits and vegetables in very small quantities.

Applications:

Plastic welding agent:

Ethyl methyl ketones have the ability to dissolve polystyrene and various other plastics. They are often pondered as adhesives and are commercialized as “model cement” for their usage in the connecting parts of scale model kits. Hence, they are known as plastic welding agents.

Solvent:

Butanones are one amongst the most commonly preferred solvents as they are employed in a variety of processes implicating resins, gums, vinyl films, cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose coatings. Due to their favorable hygroscopicity, they are used in the production of various textile materials, plastics and paraffin wax. They are also employed in house hold products like varnishes, cleaning agents, paint remover, lacquer and denaturing agent for glues and denatured alcohol. These properties have been observed in acetone as well. However, acetone compounds possess slower evaporation rate and higher boiling rate. Furthermore, methyl ethyl ketones end up in the formation of azeotrope with water. They are useful as in azeotropic distillation of moisture in certain applications. Dry erase markers require the usage of methyl ethyl ketones as they act as the solvents of the erasable dye.

Other prominent uses:

Some polymerization reactions entailing the cross linking of unsaturated polyester resins would require the usage of methyl ethyl ketone peroxide as catalysts. These compounds are procured by setting butanones as precursors.