Carbon Tetrachloride - CCl4

From being a refrigerant to acting as a firefighting element, Carbon Tetrachloride has a few but important real-time applications. Considering its high value in the field of inorganic chemistry, we will be learning about the definition of what is Carbon Tetrachloride, its characteristics, physical and chemical properties, along with its structure and formula. In the stance of understanding, we will also get an idea about carbon tetrachloride uses and its effect upon the environment and human beings. 

What is Carbon Tetrachloride?

When the French Chemist ‘Henri Victor Regnault’ combined chlorine (Cl) and chloroform (CHCl3), it led to the discovery of Carbon Tetrachloride in 1839. The terms Carbon Tetrachloride and Tetrachloromethane (\[CCl_{4}\] chemical name from the IUPAC) both mean the same. This is a chemical inorganic compound with 4 chloride atoms connected to 1 carbon atom, giving it a tetrahedral molecule shape. 


There are many applications to productivity using Carbon Tetrachloride. Yet with the research studies, the noxious side of \[CCl_{4}\] was understood and the usage was reduced gradually from many factories and offline industries. 

Carbon Tetrachloride Formula

The chemical formula or term to represent Tetrachloromethane is \[CCl_{4}\]. The number of valence electrons from studying the \[CCl_{4}\] lewis structure is 32. This is derived by 4 + (4 * 7).

Carbon Tetrachloride Structure

Carbon Tetrachloride is a nonpolar molecule. This comes from its symmetric shape of the 4 chlorine atoms that are interlinked to the 1 carbon molecule. Carbon Tetrachloride is also classified under a separate alkaline group called halomethane. The key reason to consider \[CCl_{4}\] as a halomethane lies in the fact that the Carbon Tetrachloride has physical structure same to that of methane (CH4).


Properties of Carbon Tetrachloride

  • Other names for Carbon Tetrachloride (\[CCl_{4}\]) includes Tetrachloromethane, Tetrasol, 56-23-5 and/or Perchloromethane.

  • \[CCl_{4}\] cannot be produced naturally from the environment.

  • The molecular weight of \[CCl_{4}\] is 153.823 g/mol with a monoisotopic value of 151.875412 Da.

  • The smell of Carbon Tetrachloride is termed to be ‘sweet’ (sometimes also referred to with the smell of Chloroform).

  • \[CCl_{4}\] is colourless and clear in perspective. 

  • Appreciable property of Carbon Tetrachloride includes its Volatile behaviour and being an extremely stable chlorinated hydrocarbon.

  • Soluble in Naphtha, Ether, Formic acid, CS2 and alcohol. 

  • Carbon Tetrachloride is reasonably deemed as a human carcinogen from scientific evidence of its carcinogenicity with many experimental animals. (NCI05)

Carbon Tetrachloride Uses

One of the most fascinating aspects of using Carbon Tetrachloride as a firefighting reagent lies in its chemical property. \[CCl_{4}\] has the potential to prevent a combustion reaction from taking place through its vaporization capacity.  This helps in preventing the spread of fire and acts as a good fire extinguisher (in the past). In the making of similar chlorine-based compounds, \[CCl_{4}\] is an important source of chlorine synthesis. Another interesting use of \[CCl_{4}\] is in displaying watermarks on postages stamps, without any mere damage.


Since Carbon Tetrachloride is a non-polar compound, it is useful to make elements chemically similar to \[CCl_{4}\] (this is a brilliant solvent for fats and oils). This is also useful as a refrigerant. From infrared spectroscopy to NMR spectroscopy, Carbon Tetrachloride is also a usable inorganic compound in medical fields, accounting to the absence of hydrogen atoms. 

Effects of Carbon Tetrachloride

Even though there is a good count for the Carbon Tetrachloride uses, the toxicity in this compound was also studied, resulting in the reduction in its purpose. The environment is several damaged in terms of global warming since \[CCl_{4}\] has many greenhouse effects along with ozone-depleting characteristics. 


When humans are exposed to concentrated tetrachloromethane, it might even lead to severe cases of coma and death. \[CCl_{4}\] is also detected as a cancer-causing compound and disrupts the natural processing of the nervous system.  A few cases of liver degeneration is also linked to exposure to Carbon Tetrachloride. Since \[CCl_{4}\] affects the nervous system directly, a prolonged vulnerability in humans can lead to clinical depression.


Hence, Carbon Tetrachloride is considered as an acute toxic agent, an irritant and poses severe health hazards to living species and the ecosystem.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Other Organic Members Similar to CCl4?

Some of the other organic members similar to CCl4 include CHCl3, CH4, CH2Cl2 and CH3Cl.

2. What is the Shape of Carbon Tetrachloride?

The shape of Carbon Tetrachloride is tetrahedral, owing to the repulsion between its molecules. 


3. Can CCl4 be Found in the Environment?

CClcannot occur naturally in the ecosystem. Yet, a minimal amount of Carbon Tetrachloride is possibly found in soil, ambient air and sometimes in water. 

4. Is Carbon Tetrachloride Dissolvable in Water?

No. Carbon Tetrachloride cannot be dissolved in water (H2O) with ease. On the other hand, CCl4 is not a flammable element as well. Yet, it can evaporate in the air quickly. 

5. Will CCl4 Conduct Electricity?

No. CCl4 will not conduct electricity due to the absence of covalent bonds, making it impossible to conduct iconic charging and transmission.