Methylethylketone (MEK)

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Infobox on Methylethylketone (MEK)
Example of Methylethylketone (MEK)
Origin -
Stowage factor (in m3/t) -
Humidity / moisture -
Ventilation -
Risk factors See text

Methylethylketone (MEK)

Description / Application

Butanone, also known as methyl ethyl ketone or MEK, is an organic compound with the formula CH3C(O)CH2CH3. This colourless liquid ketone has a sharp, sweet odour reminiscent of butterscotch and acetone. It is produced industrially on a large scale, and also occurs in trace amounts in nature. It is soluble in water and is commonly used as an industrial solvent. The product is also soluble in benzene, alcohol and ether; miscible with oils.

Derivation is from mixed n-butylenes and sulphuric acid to cause hydrolysis followed by distillation to separate sec-butyl alcohol which is dehydrogenated, by controlled oxidation of butane, by fermentation.

Butanone is an effective and common solvent and is used in processes involving gums, resins, cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose coatings and in vinyl films. For this reason it finds use in the manufacture of plastics, textiles, in the production of Paraffin Wax, and in household products such as lacquer, varnishes, paint remover, a denaturing agent for denatured alcohol, glues, and as a cleaning agent. It has similar solvent properties to acetone but has a significantly slower evaporation rate. Butanone is also used in dry erase markers as the solvent of the erasable dye.

Shipment / Storage

Butanone can react with most oxidizing materials, and can produce fires. It is moderately explosive; it requires only a small flame or spark to cause a vigorous reaction. Butanone fires should be extinguished with carbon dioxide, dry chemicals or alcohol foam. Concentrations in the air high enough to be flammable are also intolerable to humans due to the irritating nature of the vapour.

Auto-Ignition temperature: 404°C
Flash Points: Closed cup: -9°C; Open cup: -5.5556°C.
Flammable Limits: Lower: 1.8%; Upper: 10%
Products of Combustion: These products are carbon oxides (CO, CO2).

For overseas carriage aspects of Chemicals, the readers are recommended to acquire or have access to a good chemical dictionary, and a copy of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, issued by the International Maritime Organisation. Also consult the applicable MSDS sheet.

Risk factors

Toxic by inhalation; TLV: 200 ppm in air. Corrosive and strong irritant to tissue. Flammable, dangerous fire risk, explosive limits in air 2-10%.

Butanone is an irritant, causing irritation to the eyes and nose of humans, but serious health effects in animals have been seen only at very high levels. When inhaled, these effects included birth defects in mice, but only at the highest dose tested (3000 ppm for 7 hours/day).

See also: