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Tetraethyl Lead

Last updated date: 16th May 2024
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Introduction to Tetraethyl Lead

TEL stands for tetraethyl lead (also known as tetraethyl lead) and is an organolead compound with the formula (CH3CH2)4Pb, where the lead formula is Pb. It's a petro-fuel additive that was first mixed with gasoline in the 1920s as a patented octane rating booster that enabled engines to run at higher compression levels. As a result, vehicle efficiency and fuel economy improved. TEL's antiknock efficacy was discovered in 1921 by the General Motors research laboratory, which had spent many years trying to find an additive that was both highly efficient and inexpensive.

Later, concerns about the toxic effects of lead, especially on children, were raised. Catalytic converters are also poisoned by lead, which is also a major cause of spark plug fouling. Many countries started phasing out and ultimately banning TEL in automotive fuel as early as the 1970s. According to an UN-backed report from 2011, the elimination of TEL resulted in $2.4 trillion in annual benefits and 1.2 million fewer premature deaths.

This article will study tetraethyl lead anti-knocking agent and tetraethyl lead uses in detail.

The Reaction For the Formation of Tetraethyl Lead

Chloroethane is combined with sodium–lead alloy to create TEL.

4 NaPb + 4 CH 3CH2Cl → (CH3CH2)4Pb + 4 NaCl + 3 Pb

Steam distillation is used to recover the product, leaving a sludge of lead and sodium chloride. TEL is a colourless, viscous liquid. TEL is strongly lipophilic and soluble in petrol since it is charge neutral and contains an exterior of alkyl groups (gasoline).

Tetraethyl Lead Uses

Tetraethyl lead is used as:

  1. Beginning in the 1920s, TEL was widely used as a gasoline additive, where it acted as an effective antiknock agent and prevented exhaust valve and valve seat wear. Concerns about the potential health effects of fine lead particles in the atmosphere were posed almost immediately in authoritative journals.

  2. Tetraethyllead acts as a barrier between the hot exhaust valves and their seats, preventing micro welds from developing. When these valves reopen, the micro welds separate, leaving a rough surface on the valves that abrade the seats, causing valve recession. As lead was phased out of motor fuel, automakers started specifying reinforced valve seats and improved exhaust valve materials to avoid valve recession in the absence of lead.

  3. Tetraethyl lead anti knocking agent: To prevent uncontrolled combustion, known as engine knocking, a gasoline-fueled reciprocating engine needs fuel with a high octane level (knock or ping). Tetraethyl lead anti knocking agents allow higher compression ratios to be used, resulting in increased efficiency and peak power. Adding varying quantities of additives to gasoline, such as low percentage TEL or high percentage ethanol, allowing for simple and inexpensive octane control. TEL had the added benefit of being commercially viable because its application for this purpose could be patented. TEL, which was used in WWII, achieved 150 octanes, allowing supercharged engines like the Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon to achieve high horsepower ratings at a low cost.

  4. Because of concerns about air and soil lead levels, as well as the accumulative neurotoxicity of lead, most developed countries phased out TEL from road vehicle fuels by the early 2000s. The use of catalytic converters, which were required in the United States for 1975 and newer model-year cars to comply with stricter emissions regulations, began the gradual phase-out of leaded gasoline in the United States.

  5. Several advancements in automotive engineering and petroleum chemistry have reduced the need for TEL. Other antiknock additives of varying toxicity, such as metallic compounds such as methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) and oxygenates such as methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), tert-amyl methyl ether (TAME), and ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE), as well as other antiknock additives of varying toxicity, such as methyl (ETBE).

Lead Tetraacetate

The chemical compound Pb(C2H3O2)4 is also known as lead(IV) acetate or lead tetraacetate. It's a colourless solid that's soluble in nonpolar organic solvents, but it's not salt. Moisture degrades it, so it's normally stored with more acetic acid. The compound is used in the synthesis of organic compounds.

Did You Know?

Antiknock agents are divided into two categories: high-percentage additives like alcohol and low-percentage additives like heavy metals. Since the key issue with TEL is its lead content, a variety of alternative additives containing less toxic metals have been investigated. For a time, methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT), a manganese-carrying additive, was used as an antiknock agent, but its protection has been questioned, and it has been the subject of bans and lawsuits. Ferrocene, an organometallic iron compound, is also used as an antiknock agent, though it has a number of disadvantages.

FAQs on Tetraethyl Lead

1. What is Tetraethyl Lead Used For?

Ans: Organic lead (tetraethyl lead) is used in gasoline and jet fuels as an antiknock agent. Tetraethyl lead is quickly absorbed through the skin, lungs, and digestive tract. It is converted to triethyl lead, which could explain its toxicity.

2. Why was Leaded Gas Banned?

Ans: Children's neurological development is hampered by lead poisoning, which damages the central nervous system. In the 1970s, government agencies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started to prohibit the use of leaded gasoline; alternative fuels and other fossil fuel additives entered the market and became commercially viable at the time.

3. Why is Lead Harmful to Your Health?

Ans: High levels of lead exposure can cause anaemia, fatigue, kidney and brain damage. Lead poisoning can be fatal in high doses. Since lead may pass through the placental membrane, pregnant women who are exposed to it risk exposing their unborn child. The nervous system of a growing baby may be harmed by lead.