Chem Explorers

The Versatile Uses of Ethylene: Unveiling Its Secrets and Potential

Introduction to Ethylene

Ethylene, also known as ethene, is a colorless gas that is widely used in various industries such as agriculture, refrigeration, and polymerization. Its unique properties make it a versatile and valuable compound.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of ethylene, including its properties, structure, and uses. Let us delve into the world of ethylene and discover what makes it so intriguing.

Properties of Ethylene

Ethylene has a simple chemical formula of C2H4. The molar mass of ethylene is approximately 28 g/mol with a density of 1.1785 g/L at standard conditions (0C and 1 atm).

It is a highly flammable gas that can ignite in the presence of a spark or flame. Moreover, ethylene is an asphyxiant, meaning it can displace oxygen and cause suffocation if inhaled in large amounts.

Lewis Structure of C2H4

The Lewis structure of ethylene is as follows: both carbon atoms share a double bond with each other, and each carbon atom shares a single bond with one hydrogen atom. This molecule has a total of four valence electrons, and its central atom is carbon.

The hydrogen atoms are arranged around the carbon atoms in a tetrahedral shape, which is bent at an angle of 118 degrees.

Molecular Geometry of C2H4

The molecular geometry of ethylene is planar with a linear electron geometry. According to valence bond theory, each carbon atom undergoes sp2 hybridization, which means that it mixes one s orbital and two p orbitals to create three sp2 hybrid orbitals that lie in a plane.

These hybrid orbitals combine with another p orbital to form the double bond to the other carbon atom. The bond angle of ethylene is approximately 121.3 degrees.

Polarity of C2H4

Ethylene is a nonpolar molecule because it has no net dipole moment due to its symmetrical geometrical shape. Even though the carbon-hydrogen bonds are polar, the electronegativity difference between carbon and hydrogen is relatively small, resulting in only a slight difference in their electronegativities.

The formal charge of ethylene is zero, which means that no atom has more or fewer valence electrons than its neutral state.

Uses of Ethylene

Ethylene has a broad range of applications in various industries. Its primary use in agriculture is to stimulate fruit ripening by releasing ethylene gas in controlled environments.

In the medical field, ethylene is used as an anesthetic to induce anesthesia before surgery. Ethylene is also used as a refrigerant in commercial and industrial cooling systems.

Furthermore, ethylene is a precursor to many useful polymers such as polyethylene, which is used in plastic bags, bottles, and other consumer goods.

Solubility in Water

Ethylene is slightly soluble in water, with a solubility of approximately 0.1 g per 100 ml of water at standard conditions. Ethylene’s low solubility in water makes it difficult to dissolve in aqueous solutions.

However, the solubility of ethylene in water increases as temperature and pressure increases.

Molar Mass and Density

As previously mentioned, ethylene has a molar mass of approximately 28 g/mol and a density of 1.1785 g/L at standard conditions. Its low molar mass and density make it a lightweight and easily transportable gas.

Melting and Boiling Point

The melting point of ethylene is -169.2C, and its boiling point is -103.7C at standard conditions. Due to its low melting point, ethylene is often stored at low temperatures and under pressure to keep it in a liquid state.

Explosive Nature

Ethylene gas can be explosive when exposed to a spark, flame, or electric arc. When it ignites, it can produce a large amount of heat and gas, resulting in an explosion.

As a safety precaution, proper storage, handling, and transportation of ethylene is critical to prevent accidents.


In conclusion, ethylene is a fascinating gas that has various applications in many industries. Its unique properties and versatile nature make it a valuable compound.

The article provides a detailed overview of the properties, structure, and uses of ethylene. With this knowledge, we can appreciate the importance of this compound in modern society and better understand its potential risks and benefits.Understanding the structure and geometry of molecules is essential in understanding their chemical properties and interactions.

A molecule’s Lewis structure provides information about its electron configuration, while molecular geometry describes the molecule’s shape in three-dimensional space. In this article, we will explore the Lewis structure and molecular geometry of C2H4, otherwise known as ethylene, in detail.

Lewis structure of C2H4

To create the

Lewis structure of C2H4, we first need to count the number of valence electrons present in each atom. In this case, carbon has four valence electrons, and hydrogen has one valence electron.

Since C2H4 has two carbon atoms and four hydrogen atoms, the total number of valence electrons is (2 x 4) + (4 x 1) = 12. The next step is to place the atoms in the structure.

In C2H4, the two carbon atoms are central atoms, and the four hydrogen atoms are outer atoms. Each carbon atom forms one single bond with each hydrogen atom and one double bond with the other carbon atom.

This arrangement results in each carbon atom being bonded to two hydrogen atoms and one other carbon atom, as shown in the following figure. H H

| |

H — C == C — H

| |


After connecting the atoms with bonds, the next step is to complete the central atom’s octet.

In C2H4, each carbon atom has four valence electrons and is sharing four electrons through its bonds. To complete its octet, the carbon atoms need two more electrons, which come from two lone pairs of electrons on each carbon atom.

The final structure of C2H4 is a stable structure in which all atoms have a full valence electron shell. In this structure, each carbon atom has six electrons in its valence shell, and each hydrogen atom has two electrons in its valence shell.

Molecular geometry of C2H4

The molecular geometry of C2H4 is trigonal planar, which means that the molecule is two-dimensional and flat. This structure is a result of the carbon atoms being sp2 hybridized.

The hybridization number is a measure of the number of orbitals an atom has to form covalent bonds. In C2H4, each carbon atom has three sp2 hybrid orbitals and one unused p orbital, which forms the double bond between the two carbon atoms.

VSEPR theory and electron pairs

The VSEPR theory can help predict the molecular geometry of molecules like C2H4. It states that electron pairs in the valence shell will “repel” each other, so they are as far apart as possible, resulting in the molecule’s shape.

In C2H4, there are four electron pairs: two single bonds, one double bond, and two lone pairs of electrons. The electron pairs push each other apart, resulting in the trigonal planar shape.

The AXN method for molecular design

A practical way to determine the molecular geometry using the VSEPR theory is the AXN method, where A represents the central atom, X represents the outer atoms, and N represents the number of lone pairs of electrons on the central atom. In C2H4, the central atom is carbon (A), and the outer atoms are hydrogen (X).

There are two lone pairs of electrons (N) on each carbon atom. Using the AX2N notation, C2H4 can be represented as AX2N2, which indicates that C2H4 has a trigonal planar shape.


In conclusion, the Lewis structure and molecular geometry of C2H4, or ethylene, play critical roles in describing the molecule’s chemical properties and interactions. Understanding the arrangement of atoms and electron pairs helps predict the molecule’s shape and its behavior in chemical reactions.

By applying the concepts of Lewis structure and molecular geometry, we can better understand the science behind the chemical world.

Polarity of C2H4

The polarity of a molecule reflects its overall charge distribution, which can be determined by examining the molecule’s geometry and electronegativity. In the case of C2H4, the polarity of the molecule is mainly determined by the difference in electronegativity between the carbon and hydrogen atoms and the geometrical shape of the molecule.

Electronegativity Analysis

The electronegativity of an atom is its ability to attract electrons towards itself in a chemical bond. The electronegativity of carbon is 2.55, and that of hydrogen is 2.20.

The small difference in electronegativity between carbon and hydrogen indicates that the bonds between them are nonpolar; however, this does not necessarily mean that the entire molecule is nonpolar.

Dipole Moment Calculation

The dipole moment is a measure of the separation of charge within a molecule. To calculate the dipole moment of C2H4, we need to consider the bond polarity and the geometrical shape of the molecule.

Since the double bond in C2H4 is more polar than the single bonds, it creates a partial negative charge on the carbon atoms and a partial positive charge on the hydrogen atoms. Therefore, there is an overall dipole moment in C2H4.

The dipole moment magnitude of the C2H4 molecule is calculated by multiplying the charge separation between the carbon atom and the hydrogen atom by the distance between them.

Geometrical Shape Considerations

The geometrical shape of a molecule determines its polarity as well. If a molecule is symmetrical, then the dipoles can cancel each other out, resulting in a non-polar molecule.

In C2H4, the trigonal planar shape of the molecule is symmetrical. Therefore, the dipole moments of the two carbon-hydrogen bonds cancel each other out and do not contribute to the net dipole moment of the molecule.

In other words, C2H4 is nonpolar.

Formal Charge Calculation

The formal charge of an atom is the number of valence electrons minus the number of electrons that are assigned to the atom in the molecule. This helps us to determine whether the electrons in the molecule are distributed evenly or if one atom has more electrons than the others.

The formal charge of the carbon atom in C2H4 is zero, and the formal charge of each hydrogen atom is also zero. This suggests an even distribution of charge in C2H4.

Uses of Ethylene

Ethylene has a wide range of applications in various industries due to its unique properties. Here are some of the most common uses of ethylene:

Agriculture Application

One of the most significant uses of ethylene is in the agriculture industry, where it is commonly used to ripen fruits. Farmers can control the ripening and quality of fruits by exposing them to ethylene gas in controlled environments.

Ethylene is also used to create seedless fruits, such as seedless watermelons, by inhibiting seed development.

Industrial Applications

Ethylene has various industrial applications. For example, in the medical field, ethylene is used as an anesthetic to induce a state of unconsciousness before surgery.

Furthermore, ethylene is used as a refrigerant in commercial and industrial cooling systems. Ethylene is also a crucial building block for chemical production for materials such as plastics, textiles, and detergents.

Additionally, ethylene is used in the polymerization process to make polyethylene, which is used in a wide range of consumer goods.

Packaging Applications

Ethylene is used in the production of films and packaging materials to maintain the freshness of fruits, vegetables, and other perishable goods. This process of packaging fruits and vegetables is known as a modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), where a controlled atmospheric environment is created to slow down the ripening process of fruits and vegetables.


In conclusion, ethylene is an essential compound with a broad range of applications in various industries. The polarity of C2H4 is determined by the difference in electronegativity between carbon and hydrogen and the geometrical shape of the molecule.

Despite the carbon-hydrogen bonds being polar, the symmetrical geometrical shape results in the overall molecule being nonpolar. Ethylene’s agricultural, industrial, and packaging applications showcase its versatility and usefulness in modern society.

In conclusion, understanding the properties, structure, and uses of ethylene is crucial in various industries. The Lewis structure and molecular geometry of C2H4 provide insights into its chemical characteristics, while the polarity analysis clarifies its overall charge distribution.

Ethylene’s applications span agriculture, industry, and packaging, making it an indispensable compound. The key takeaway is that ethylene’s properties and versatility contribute significantly to modern society’s progress and well-being, emphasizing the importance of studying and appreciating this compound’s impact on our daily lives.


1. What is the

Lewis structure of C2H4?

Answer: The

Lewis structure of C2H4 consists of two carbon atoms connected by a double bond and each carbon atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms. 2.

Is C2H4 a polar or nonpolar molecule? Answer: Despite the polar carbon-hydrogen bonds, the symmetrical geometrical shape of C2H4 renders it a nonpolar molecule.

3. What is the main application of ethylene in agriculture?

Answer: Ethylene is commonly used in agriculture to ripen fruits and control the quality and timing of fruit ripening. 4.

How is ethylene utilized in the industrial sector? Answer: Ethylene finds application as an anesthetic, refrigerant, and plays a vital role in chemical production and polymerization processes for various materials.

5. What is the significance of ethylene in packaging?

Answer: Ethylene is used in the production of films and packaging materials to maintain the freshness of perishable goods by creating a controlled atmospheric environment. Final thought: By gaining a comprehensive understanding of ethylene’s properties and applications, we can appreciate its invaluable contributions to multiple industries and recognize its role in shaping our daily lives.

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