What is toluene used for?


Quick Answer

Toluene is mostly used as a solvent and an additive in gasoline to improve octane ratings. Toluene also produces other chemicals, such as benzoic acid, which is used as a preservative in foods, cosmetics and drinks. Toluene is also used to make trinitrotoluene, which is the explosive TNT.

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Full Answer

Toulene is part of the process of making saccharin, antiseptics and paint thinners. It is also employed in making perfumes, dyes, antifreeze and medicine, and it is utilized to produce the polymers that create plastics and nylon. It's naturally found in coal tar and is a byproduct of the production of gasoline and coke.

Toluene is an aromatic hydrocarbon. This means it's made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms, with a formula of C7H8. It has the strong and sweet smell of paint thinner, but this isn't what makes it aromatic. Aromatic means that it's a member of the benzene family. Its other name is methylbenzene, and chemists illustrate it by drawing a six-sided benzene ring and adding a methyl group to it.

Though less toxic than benzene, toluene is dangerous to breathe, ingest or spill on the skin. Exposure can make a person light-headed and nauseous and can distort hearing and color vision. Extreme exposure can lead to unconsciousness and death.

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