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What Are the 7 Most Common Industrial Chemicals?

Modern urban wastewater treatment plant. industrial chemicals

Hundreds of different industrial chemicals are used in industrial or warehouse settings. Some are used to create consumer goods, such are used in the production of chemicals, some are used to create energy, and some are the result of various chemicals or leaks in a building. Here are seven of the most common industrial chemicals you should know about.

1. Sulfuric Acid, or H2SO4

Sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive and strong mineral acid with the chemical formula H2SO4. It is commonly known as the “king of chemicals” due to its widespread industrial use and essential role in various processes. Sulfuric acid is a colorless, oily liquid that can cause severe burns when it comes into contact with skin or other organic materials.

It is important in producing fertilizers, detergents, batteries, and various chemical products. Sulfuric acid is also used in metal processing, oil refining, and wastewater treatment. Its strong acidic properties make it a crucial catalyst in numerous chemical reactions, and its significance in various industries makes it one of the most widely produced chemicals globally.

2. Ethylene, or C2H4

Ethylene is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas and the simplest member of the alkene family, with the chemical formula C2H4. It is a colorless and flammable gas with a slightly sweet odor. Ethylene plays a crucial role in agriculture, as it is a plant hormone responsible for several physiological processes in plants, such as fruit ripening and flower development. Apart from its biological significance, ethylene has various industrial applications.

It is a vital raw material in the production of plastics, including polyethylene, one of the most widely used polymers worldwide. Ethylene also manufactures solvents, antifreeze, synthetic rubber, and various chemical intermediates.

3. Sodium Hydroxide, or NAOH

Sodium hydroxide, commonly known as caustic soda or lye, is a strong and highly versatile base with the chemical formula NaOH. It is an odorless, white, and translucent solid, but it is typically sold in the form of pellets, flakes, or a concentrated aqueous solution. Sodium hydroxide is an essential chemical in various industries due to its powerful alkaline properties. It is widely used in chemical processes, such as the production of paper, textiles, and detergents.

Additionally, it plays a crucial role in water treatment, where it is used for pH regulation and removing metals and impurities from water. Handling sodium hydroxide with care is essential, as it is highly caustic and can cause severe skin and eye irritation. Safety precautions should be taken to prevent accidents or injuries when working with this chemical.

4. Propylene, or C3H6

Propylene, also known as propene, is a colorless and flammable gas belonging to the alkene family of hydrocarbons. With the chemical formula C3H6, it consists of three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms. Propylene is an important building block in the petrochemical industry and has various industrial applications. One of the primary uses of propylene is as a raw material in the production of polypropylene, a versatile thermoplastic polymer.

Polypropylene is widely used to manufacture various plastic products, such as packaging materials, containers, automotive parts, and textiles. Additionally, propylene is essential in the synthesis of other chemicals and intermediates, including acrylonitrile, propylene oxide, and isopropanol. These chemicals serve as precursors for the production of plastics, synthetic rubber, and various other materials.

5. Nitrogen, or N2

Nitrogen is an essential element and a vital component of life on Earth. It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, making up about 78% of the Earth’s atmosphere. With the chemical symbol N and atomic number 7, nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the air we breathe. Although nitrogen gas is inert and non-reactive under normal conditions, it plays a crucial role in various biological and industrial processes. One of its primary functions is as a vital element in the building blocks of life, as it is a fundamental component of amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids.

Without sufficient nitrogen, life as we know it would not be possible. Overall, nitrogen’s significance extends across multiple domains, including agriculture, industry, and the foundation of life itself. Its abundance in the atmosphere and its versatile applications make nitrogen a crucial element that impacts numerous aspects of our daily lives.

6. Carbon Monoxide, or CO

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas comprising one carbon atom and one oxygen atom. It is produced when carbon-containing fuels, such as gasoline, natural gas, wood, or coal, do not undergo complete combustion due to a lack of oxygen. This gas is highly toxic and poses significant health risks to humans and animals. In industrial settings, carbon monoxide is used in certain chemical processes and as a reducing agent in metallurgy.

However, strict safety measures and ventilation protocols are implemented to prevent exposure to high concentrations of this toxic gas. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, it is crucial to ensure proper ventilation and regular maintenance of fuel-burning appliances. Installing carbon monoxide detectors in living or working spaces is also essential for early detection of elevated levels of this gas.

7. Natural Gas, or CH4

Natural gas is a fossil fuel primarily composed of methane (CH4). However, it may also contain small amounts of other hydrocarbons, such as ethane, propane, butane, and impurities like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. It is formed over millions of years from the decomposition of organic matter deep within the Earth’s crust. The extraction and use of natural gas raises environmental and safety concerns, particularly about methane emissions and potential leaks during production, transportation, and distribution.

Here at Highmark Analytics, we can help you monitor for dangerous gases caused by industrial chemicals or leaks in an industrial setting. One of the products we offer is a lower explosive limit, or LEL, monitoring system that can measure both carbon monoxide and natural gas. If you are interested in learning more about any of our chemical or gas monitoring systems, reach out to us today to discuss the needs of your industrial business and how we can help to keep your employees safe.