Ethene has two main industrial uses. Ethene is used to accelerate the ripening of fruits and is most commonly used on bananas and also on citrus fruits. The other use of ethene is in the manufacture of plastics, such as packing films, wire coatings, and squeeze bottles.
Ethene is made from the process of cracking hydrocarbons from petroleum. Ethene can then be used to make other raw materials like, ethanal, ethanol, and ethyl chloride. Ethene also occurs naturally in plants and stimulates the ripening of fruits. However by keeping the fruit in a chamber, such as a greenhouse, the amounts of ethene present in the air can be controlled, and thus the degree of ripening of the fruit can also be controlled. The ethene allows the fruit to mature in colour and ripen. This process takes place over a few days, and the more ethene that is used, the faster the fruit will ripen.
As for the industrial use of ethene in plastics, the ethene must first undergo polymerization. As briefly mentioned before, polymerization is the process where ethene is converted to polyethene through an addition reaction in the presence of a catalyst. Polymerization is an exothermic reaction as heat is given off and requires high temperatures and pressures for it to occur. Many examples of polyethene that are commonly found in households include, milk bottles, bins and microwave wraps.
PVC and polystyrene:
While ethene by itself is not particularly useful, it can be used to produce chemicals such as vinyl chloride (CH2=CHCl) and styrene (CH2=CH(C6H5)) which in turn can undergo polymerization to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene respectively. Traditional materials like rubber, steel, ceramics and glass are often replaced with PVC as it is a very versatile material and even simple modifications to the basic properties of the material can lead to a range of applications and different materials formed. One property of PVC is that...