Butane is a hydrocarbon with molecular formula C4H10. It is an alkane and found in gaseous state at room temperature. It was discovered by British Chemist Edward Frankland in 1849. Although its various properties were described by Edmund Ronalds who was an English Industrial chemist. He found butane in the crude petroleum and studied its properties. 

In other words, we can define butane as a member of the paraffin hydrocarbon series (or alkane series) which has 4 carbon atoms and 10 hydrogen atoms. Butane is a saturated hydrocarbon as single bonds are found between all carbon atoms of butane. 

Butane Structure 

As we have discussed, the molecular formula of butane is C4H10. Its IUPAC name is butane. In the word butane, prefix ‘But’ stands for 4 carbon atoms present in butane and suffix ‘ane’ comes from the alkane series which represent that butane belongs from alkane homologous series and is saturated in nature. Butane can be easily represented by the general formula of alkanes which is CnH2n+2 where n = any positive integer or number of carbon atoms. For butane n = 4, on putting the value of ‘n’ in the general formula C4H2.4+2 = C4H10. Thus, butane is a saturated hydrocarbon (single bond between carbon atoms) with four carbon atoms and ten hydrogen atoms. Therefore, its structure will be as follows –

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Butane or n-butane has a linear chain structure and covalent bonds between C – C and C – H. Each carbon atom has 4 sigma bonds. So, each carbon atom is sp3 hybridized and has a tetrahedral shape. 

Properties of Butane 

Various physical properties of butane are listed below –

  • Its molecular formula is C4H10 and empirical formula is C2H5

  • Boiling point of butane is -1 to 1.

  • It is highly flammable. 

  • It is gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.

  • It is colorless gas. 

  • It has an odor like gasoline.

  • It can be easily liquified and liquified butane gas can be easily converted into vapor at room temperature. 

  • Molar mass of butane is 58.124g/mol.

  • Its density is 2.48kg/m3 at 15.

  • It is very less soluble in water. Its solubility in water is 61mg per liter at 68.

Chemical Properties of Butane 

Few chemical properties of butane are listed below –

  • Reaction with oxygen – Butane reacts with oxygen and form carbon dioxide and water vapor. Reaction is given below –

2C4H10 + 13O2 🡪 8CO2 + 10H2O + Energy 

If the amount of oxygen is limited, then it forms carbon monoxide and water vapor. Reaction is given below –

2C4H10 + 13O2 🡪 8CO2 + 10H2

  • Reaction with chlorine – Butane reacts with chlorine and forms butyl chloride and HCl. Reaction is given below –

2C4H10 + Cl2 🡪 C4H9Cl + HCl 

  • Reaction with iodine – Butane reacts with iodine and forms 2-iodobutane and hydrogen iodide. Reaction is given below –

2C4H10 + I2 🡪 C4H9I + HI 

Production of Butane 

Butane is a fossil fuel produced naturally by dead remains of the plants and animals deep inside the earth. It is found as natural gas deep inside the earth. We obtain butane by fractional distillation of crude oil. During this process we get many other products as well such as kerosene, diesel, heavy gas oil etc. 

Fractional distillation is the process of separating various components of a liquid mixture on the basis of their different boiling points using a fractionating column. Fractional distillation of crude oil is also called petroleum refining. 

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Uses of Butane 

Butane is a fossil fuel and is very useful in many fields. Few of its applications are listed below –

  • It is widely used as a fuel for various purposes.

  • It is one of the components of LPG (Liquified petroleum gas).

  • It is used for gasoline blending. 

  • It is a key raw material of synthetic rubber.

  • Isobutane is used in refineries. 

  • It is used in steam cracking.

  • It is used in deodorants or aerosol sprays as propellant.

  • It is used as fuel in cigarette lighters.

  • Its isomer isobutane is used in refrigerants.

  • It is used in air conditioning systems as well. 

  • It is used as fuel in a butane torch as well.

  • It is used as fuel in camping stoves, barbecues etc. Although transportation of butane must be done very carefully.

Butane is not a greenhouse gas and does not produce smoke on burning. It does not affect the ozone layer of the atmosphere as well. Therefore, we can say, butane is an environmentally friendly gas or fuel. 

Disadvantages of Butane: Is Butane Toxic to Humans?

As we discussed earlier, butane has numerous applications and makes our life easier. But it has some disadvantages as well. Although the toxicity of butane is very low, and its low or medium concentrations of butane exposure does not give any harmful effects. But exposure to its large concentrations can cause cardiac effects, cancer or central nervous system depression. Euphoria, drowsiness, unconsciousness, asphyxia etc. can be caused if you inhale butane. Even it may cause temporary memory loss, fluctuations in blood pressure or death. If it enters in the blood, then within seconds it causes intoxication. Burning of butane in a limited amount of oxygen forms carbon monoxide and prolonged inhalation of carbon monoxide may cause death. Contact of liquefied butane gas may cause permanent eye damage. It may cause itching of skin or numbness as well. 

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