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Before going on to the uses of the formaldehyde, let us know a little bit more about the chemical itself. Formaldehyde is most commonly used as the preservative in laboratories and the morgue. It is a chemical which is colorless and has a very strong smell. It is commonly found in products such as chemicals, glues, press fabrics and plywood. But what actually is formaldehyde? Read on...
When you burn methane, formaldehyde is produced as an intermediate product of combustion. The formaldehyde is chemically known as methanal and it formula is CH2O. There are other forms of formaldehyde too; cyclic trimer trioxane and polymer paraformaldehyde. The aqueous solution of formaldehyde is called formalin. The commercially available formalin has 10 to 12% methanol with a few impurities like aluminum and copper. Almost 21 million tonnes of formaldehyde is produced annually all around the world.
Synthesis of Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is produced by catalytic oxidation of methanol. A mixture of molybdenum and iron or silver is used as a catalyst in such a reaction. But a more commonly used process is FORMAX. In this process, methanol and oxygen react at temperatures more than 250ºC in presence of vanadium to produce formaldehyde. The following chemical equation represents the reaction that takes place.
2CH3OH + O2---> 2CH2O + 2H20 .
But if you are using a silver based catalyst, then you have to operate at a temperature more than 650ºC. Although formaldehyde is the intermediate product of oxidation of methane, it is not industrially viable, because formaldehyde is more easily oxidized than methane.... [continues]
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