In the final analysis, chemistry is about chemicals. In school, you may carry out a reaction with a few grams of a chemical; in industry, tons of the same chemical may be used in the same reaction. And in industry, a lot of money is made from actually very few chemicals. Maybe you’ve wondered about industrial chemistry, including what goes on in that field and which chemicals are used on a large scale. Here are the ten most commonly produced chemicals. The amounts change from year to year, but all the chemicals listed are produced more than 100 million metric tons. Here you can see how much chemistry impacts your daily life.
Sulfuric Acid (H۲SO۴)
No matter what the year, sulfuric acid heads the list as the number-one produced chemical worldwide. The major use of sulfuric acid is in the production of fertilizers — ammonium sulfate and superphosphate. However, sulfuric acid is also used in other products, including the following:
_Lead-acid automobile batteries
_Other chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, dye, explosives, pigments, and drugs
Sulfuric acid is also used as a reactant during the manufacture or processing of certain goods. Here are some examples of its function:
_To remove impurities during petroleum refining.
_To remove metallic oxides before electroplating and galvanizing metal.
_ To remove water during certain chemical reactions.
_To act as a reactant in the manufacture of rayon and nitroglycerine.
Nitrogen is largely an inert gas because it’s commonly used as a blanketing gas, which means it protects oxygen-sensitive materials from contact with the air. Following are some of the many industrial uses of liquid nitrogen:
_To quickly freeze substances for processing; for example, it’s commonly used to freeze old tires to make them easier to shred for recycling purposes.
_To manufacture steel and other metals.
_To cool concrete, improving the properties of the building material.
_To freeze the soggy ground, making construction easier
_To cool chemical reactors, allowing chemical engineers to more effectively control side reactions.
The following industries also use nitrogen and liquid nitrogen:
Food: The food industry uses the quick-cooling aspect to minimize cell damage from ice crystals that commonly form during the normal freezing process. Another use is in food service: Liquid nitrogen is used in refrigerated trucks to minimize the contact of the food with air.
Healthcare: The healthcare industry uses liquid nitrogen to freeze blood and tissue samples as well as cryosurgery to destroy tissue, such as warts. And at least one college chemistry club uses liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. No churning here; it’s ready in less than a minute!
Ethylene is one of the major feedstocks for the chemical industry, especially the plastics industry. You may be surprised to see how versatile this chemical is. It’s used in these ways:
_To produce ethylene glycol (antifreeze), styrene (used to make polystyrene for use as packing and insulation), and polyethylene, one of the most widely used plastics; in fact, about half of the ethylene produced is used to make the various types of polyethylene.
_To make ethanol for industrial uses; by law, ethanol for human consumption must be produced by fermentation.
_To produce polyester (like for the polyester leisure suits of the 1970s) To produce synthetic rubber.
The Top 10 Industrial Chemicals
Some of the oxygen’s main roles are in the following combustion processes:
Commercially produced oxygen is used in oxyacetylene and oxyhydrogen welding torches.
Oxygen is used in the steelmaking industry to help burn off impurities in the molten ore. About a ton of oxygen is required per ton of steel produced!
Liquid oxygen (LOX) is used as an oxidizing agent in missiles and rockets. The oxygen tank that is used to launch the space shuttle holds about 550,000 liters of liquid oxygen. Oxygen is also used in chemical industries to break down hydrocarbons (compounds of just carbon and hydrogen) into smaller hydrocarbon products such as ethylene, propylene, and acetylene, which are in turn used to produce plastics, paints, and other products.
Propylene’s major use is as an intermediate in the production of other chemical compounds, like the following:
In the production of polyethylene needed to produce synthetic fibers for indoor/outdoor carpets.
In the production of propylene glycols for auto brake fluid, detergents, and paints.
In the production of polyurethane for rigid foam insulation In the production of various types of ABS plastics used in telephones and auto trim parts.
Chlorine has many uses, including the following:
To produce consumer and industrial products such as plastics, pharmaceuticals, dyes, household cleaners (including bleach and other disinfecting agents), insecticides, and textiles.
To treat water in multiple ways:
To largely eliminate waterborne pathogens during water purification in water treatment plants in the United States.
To kill bacteria in swimming pools; sodium hypochlorite produced from chlorine is used To act as a major reactant in the production of bulletproof vests, computer chips, and auto parts.
Ethylene Dichloride (C۲H ۲Cl۲)
The Top 10 Industrial Chemicals
The major use of ethylene dichloride is in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Those white plastic pipes used to carry water underground and throughout your home are PVC, which is a mainstay of the construction industry.
Ethylene dichloride is also used in the production of polystyrene, another useful synthetic polymer. Ethylene dichloride is used in the production of Certain dry cleaning fluids, Flooring, Shower curtains Synthetic rubber.
Phosphoric Acid (H۳PO۴)
About three-quarters of the phosphoric acid produced worldwide is used in the production of synthetic phosphate fertilizers. Here are some other uses for phosphoric acid:
Food additive: In the food industry, phosphoric acid is added as a food pH adjuster (in colas, for example), as a clarifying agent, and as a preservative. Rust remover: Phosphoric acid acts as a rust converter, converting the ferric oxide (Fe2O3) to ferric phosphate (FePO4), which can then be easily scrubbed off. Phosphoric acid for this purpose is commonly sold as a gel called naval jelly.
Well over half of the ammonia produced worldwide is used in agriculture:
It’s used to produce liquid fertilizers that contain ammonia, ammonium nitrate, and urea. It’s also used in the production of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
It’s used in the production of cotton defoliants, stripping leaves to make the cotton easier to pick. It’s used to make antifungal agents for certain fruits.
Ammonia is also used in the production of other chemicals and products, including Nitric acid, Certain dyes, Sulfa drugs, Cosmetics, Vitamins, Certain synthetic textiles, such as rayon and nylon. Household cleaners, such as glass cleaners. Additionally, ammonia is used by several industries:
As a complexing agent in the mining and metal manufacturing industries. As a refrigerant in industrial refrigeration As a curing and protective agent in the leather industry.
Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)
When a strong base is required in the industry, sodium hydroxide is the one. It’s put too many uses in a variety of industries. Here are some of its uses: In the petroleum industry, sodium hydroxide is used to increase the pH of drilling mud, making it more viscous.
Some countries use it to help remove sulfur impurities from low-grade crude oil.
The papermaking industry uses it in the digestion and bleaching of wood fibers. Sodium hydroxide is used for the decomposition of roadkill and if you can believe CSI, to get rid of human remains. It’s used in soap making.
It’s used in the production of biodiesel. It’s used as an industrial cleaning agent, especially in the degreasing of equipment. In the home, sodium hydroxide is used as an oven and drain cleaner. The food industry uses it in the making of hominy, Chinese noodles, and German pretzels.
The Top 10 Industrial Chemicals
By John T. Moore, Chris Hren, Peter J. Mikulecky