Methyl acetate is a chemical compound that belongs to the carboxylic acid esters and is mainly used industrially as a solvent. The substance is a by-product of the large-scale production of acetic acid from methanol. In addition, acid-catalyzed processes of esterification of acetic acid and methanol are used to produce the compound. Natural occurrences of small amounts of the substance include fruits, orchids and the coffee plant.
Methyl acetate is mainly used as a solvent for substances such as cellulose acetate and cellulose nitrate. The volatile compound is also a common solvent for quick-drying paints and varnishes. It is contained in celluloid and polyvinyl acetate-based adhesives, in paint removers and in products from the perfume industry. In the manufacture of shoes, methyl acetate is used as a vaporizing agent, with which stiffeners are softened before use. As a starting material for chemical syntheses, methyl acetate is important for the production of acetic anhydride, among other things. The food and luxury food industry uses the compound as a flavoring.
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CAS no. 79-20-9
EINECS no. 201-185-2
Molecular formula: C3H6O2
Synonyms: Methyl acetate, methyl ethanoate, methyl ethanoate
Areas of application: Solvents for varnishes, paints and coatings as well as cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate, used in adhesives and nail polish removers, starting material for synthetic processes in organic chemistry, raw material for the pharmaceutical industry
As a carboxylic acid ester, the molecules of methyl acetate are made up of two components that are linked together as a result of an esterification reaction. The substance, also known as methyl acetate, consists of the remainder of the acetic acid, a methyl group and the connecting ester group, which characterizes the reactive profile of the compound. Methyl acetate can enter into typical reactions of carboxylic acid esters such as transesterification and saponification.
Due to the small molecular size of the substance, the difference in electronegativity between the carbon and oxygen atoms causes a strong dipole moment. As a result, methyl acetate is readily soluble in polar compounds such as water.
Under normal ambient conditions, methyl acetate is a colorless, highly volatile liquid. The compound has a pleasant, fruity odor. At normal pressure, the substance already turns into the gaseous state at a temperature of 57 Â°C. Cooling below -99 Â°C causes the compound to solidify into a solid. Methyl acetate is readily soluble in water due to its own electrical polarity. The compound is also very soluble in organic solvents such as ethanol and diethyl ether. With a density of 0.93 g/cm3, methyl acetate is lighter than water.
When used as directed, methyl acetate can be stored safely and stably. Due to the volatility of the substance, it is particularly important to ensure airtight storage. Violent and dangerous reactions can occur when methyl acetate comes into contact with strong acids, strong oxidizing agents, alkali metals and strong bases. The compound attacks some plastics.
Methyl acetate is a highly flammable liquid. The vapors of the volatile compound can form explosive mixtures with the ambient air. When handling open containers of the substance, a sufficient distance to potential sources of ignition such as electrostatically charged surfaces, electrical contacts, mechanically generated sparks, heat sources and open flames must therefore be ensured. Due to their high density, both the vapors of the substance and their vapor-air mixtures can collect unnoticed on the floor and spread in the work rooms. Remote detonations are possible. Significant amounts of the harmful gases carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide can be produced when methyl acetate is burned.
Methyl acetate is an irritating and skin-damaging hazardous substance that poses acute and chronic health risks. In contact with the skin, the compound has an anesthetic and cooling effect. It degreases the skin and thus exacerbates existing inflammation. Repeated exposure to the substance itself can cause inflammation. Affected areas of the body should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water to dilute and remove compound residue. If larger areas of skin have been affected, seek medical help.
Even the fumes from methyl acetate are irritating to the eye. Contact with the liquid compound can cause hyperemia, increased lacrimation, and swelling of the conjunctiva. Concentrated exposure can cause inflammation and damage to the cornea and temporary impairment of vision. After contact with methyl acetate, the affected eye should be carefully rinsed under running water and immediately treated by an ophthalmologist.
Inhaling vapors or aerosols of the substance irritates the respiratory tract and can cause a dry cough, tearing and burning pain in the throat. Increased exposure can lead to pneumonia and pulmonary edema. Painful irritation of the esophagus and gastrointestinal symptoms are to be expected after swallowing methyl acetate. The absorption of the compound into the metabolism can cause impairments of the central nervous system from coordination disorders to respiratory paralysis. If poisoning is suspected, call an ambulance.
Methyl acetate is considered slightly water-polluting and should not be released into the environment.