Ethenone is the formal name for ketene, an organic compound
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

 with formula C2H2O or H2C=C=O. It is the simplest member of the ketene
A ketene is an organic compound of the form R'RC=C=O. The term is also used specifically to mean ethenone, the simplest ketene, where R' and R are hydrogen atoms.Ketenes were first studied as a class by Hermann Staudinger.-Formation:...

 class. It is a tautomer
Tautomers are isomers of organic compounds that readily interconvert by a chemical reaction called tautomerization. This reaction commonly results in the formal migration of a hydrogen atom or proton, accompanied by a switch of a single bond and adjacent double bond...

 of ethynol
Ethynol is an alcohol with the formula C2H2O. It is the much less stable tautomer of ethenone.At low temperature in a solid argon matrix it is possible to isomerize ethenone to form ethynol....



Ethenone is a colourless gas at STP
Standard conditions for temperature and pressure
Standard condition for temperature and pressure are standard sets of conditions for experimental measurements established to allow comparisons to be made between different sets of data...

 and has a sharp irritating odour. Ethenone has molecular weight 42.04, melting
Melting, or fusion, is a physical process that results in the phase change of a substance from a solid to a liquid. The internal energy of a substance is increased, typically by the application of heat or pressure, resulting in a rise of its temperature to the melting point, at which the rigid...

 point -150.5 °C (-239 °F) and boiling
Boiling is the rapid vaporization of a liquid, which occurs when a liquid is heated to its boiling point, the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the liquid is equal to the pressure exerted on the liquid by the surrounding environmental pressure. While below the boiling point a liquid...

 point -56.1 °C (-69 °F). It is soluble in acetone
Acetone is the organic compound with the formula 2CO, a colorless, mobile, flammable liquid, the simplest example of the ketones.Acetone is miscible with water and serves as an important solvent in its own right, typically as the solvent of choice for cleaning purposes in the laboratory...

, ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

, ethyl ether, aromatic
Aromatic hydrocarbon
An aromatic hydrocarbon or arene is a hydrocarbon with alternating double and single bonds between carbon atoms. The term 'aromatic' was assigned before the physical mechanism determining aromaticity was discovered, and was derived from the fact that many of the compounds have a sweet scent...

 solvents and halocarbon
Halocarbon compounds are chemicals in which one or more carbon atoms are linked by covalent bonds with one or more halogen atoms resulting in the formation of organofluorine compounds, organochlorine compounds, organobromine compounds, and organoiodine compounds...



Ethenone is very reactive, tending to react with nucleophiles to form an acetyl group. For example, it reacts with acetic acid
Acetic acid
Acetic acid is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3CO2H . It is a colourless liquid that when undiluted is also called glacial acetic acid. Acetic acid is the main component of vinegar , and has a distinctive sour taste and pungent smell...

 to form acetic anhydride
Acetic anhydride
Acetic anhydride, or ethanoic anhydride, is the chemical compound with the formula 2O. Commonly abbreviated Ac2O, it is the simplest isolatable acid anhydride and is a widely used reagent in organic synthesis...


Ethenone will also react with itself via a [2+2] cycloaddition
A cycloaddition is a pericyclic chemical reaction, in which "two or more unsaturated molecules combine with the formation of a cyclic adduct in which there is a net reduction of the bond multiplicity." The resulting reaction is a cyclization reaction.Cycloadditions are usually described by the...

 to form cyclic dimers known as diketene
Diketene is an organic compound formed by dimerization of ketene. Diketene is a member of the oxetane family. It is used as a chemical reagent in organic chemistry. It is a colorless liquid and heating regenerates the ketene monomer...

s. For this reason, it should not be stored for long periods.


Exposure to concentrated levels causes humans to experience irritation of body parts such as the eye
Human eye
The human eye is an organ which reacts to light for several purposes. As a conscious sense organ, the eye allows vision. Rod and cone cells in the retina allow conscious light perception and vision including color differentiation and the perception of depth...

, nose
Human nose
The visible part of the human nose is the protruding part of the face that bears the nostrils. The shape of the nose is determined by the ethmoid bone and the nasal septum, which consists mostly of cartilage and which separates the nostrils...

, throat
In vertebrate anatomy, the throat is the anterior part of the neck, in front of the vertebral column. It consists of the pharynx and larynx...

 and lung
Human lung
The human lungs are the organs of respiration in humans. Humans have two lungs, with the left being divided into two lobes and the right into three lobes. Together, the lungs contain approximately of airways and 300 to 500 million alveoli, having a total surface area of about in...

s. Extended toxicity testing on mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits showed that ten minute exposures to concentrations of freshly generated ethenone as low as 0.2 mg/liter (116 ppm
Parts-per notation
In science and engineering, the parts-per notation is a set of pseudo units to describe small values of miscellaneous dimensionless quantities, e.g. mole fraction or mass fraction. Since these fractions are quantity-per-quantity measures, they are pure numbers with no associated units of measurement...

) may produce a high percentage of deaths in small animals. These findings put ethenone in the same order of toxicity as phosgene
Phosgene is the chemical compound with the formula COCl2. This colorless gas gained infamy as a chemical weapon during World War I. It is also a valued industrial reagent and building block in synthesis of pharmaceuticals and other organic compounds. In low concentrations, its odor resembles...

 (0.2-20 mg/liter) and hydrogen cyanide (0.2-0.5 mg/liter). Death is from pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema , or oedema , is fluid accumulation in the air spaces and parenchyma of the lungs. It leads to impaired gas exchange and may cause respiratory failure...

and is entirely similar to, but much more rapid than is the case with phosgene poisoning.
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