Ethyl Acetate is one of the simplest organic carboxylate esters that find a wide range of applications across industries. Here are some interesting facts about Ethyl Acetate:
- Ethyl Acetate was first synthesized in a laboratory in 1759 by Count De Lauranguias by reacting together ethyl alcohol (Ethanol) and Acetic Acid and distilling the finished product. The reaction is known as Fischer Esterification that is catalyzed by acid. The wide range of possible applications of ethyl acetate, the easy availability of raw materials ethanol and acetic acid coupled with the fact of the ease of reaction has made ethyl acetate of the most widely used organic carboxylate ester solvents to be used globally.
- During the wine-making process that involves fermentation of grapes, ethyl acetate is formed as a co-product. As a result, ethyl acetate is an integral part of grape-based wines as well.
- Globally, for mass production, ethyl acetate manufacturers use either of the following processes:
- Fischer Esterification – Reacting ethanol and acetic acid in presence of an acid catalyst sulphuric acid.
- Tishchenko’s Reaction – The process involves catalytic condensation of acetaldehyde using alkoxides. This process is now widely used in Europe.
According to estimates, globally close to 13 lakh tonnes of ethyl acetate is produced globally and the market size of the product is estimated to be upwards of $3 billion.
Applications of Ethyl Acetate
- Solvent for surface coatings, thinners, lacquers, varnishes, perfumes
- Extraction solvent in manufacturing pharmaceutical APIs.
- Viscosity reducer for resins in the electronics industry
- Raw Material for manufacturing variety of drug intermediates
- Thin-layer chromatography solvent for laboratory applications
- Indirect food additives for packaging
- Flavouring agents in food like candy, baked food, gum. Ethyl acetate forms part of a wide variety of fruit wines
- Cleaning solvent for textiles
- Entomology – Ethyl Acetate vapours are filled in jars used to capture insects. The sweet smell of ethyl acetate attracts insects.
- Some properties of ethyl acetate that make it an excellent solvent are:
- Moderately polar, a colourless solvent that is volatile, relatively non-toxic as well as non-hygroscopic. It is amongst the least toxic of industrial solvents used, that makes it an ideal solvent for emulsions, thinners, lacquers, etc.
- The characteristic sweet odour that allows it to be easily added to a range of cosmetic products as a solvent
- Solubility in a lot of organic solvents and low water solubility
- Ethyl Ethanoate is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in all countries as a synthetic flavouring agent and adjuvant. It is also approved for use as a secondary food additive as a solvent
- While ethyl acetate is permitted for use in foods, cosmetics at lower concentrations, the use of this product at higher concentration is known to cause headaches, dizziness. Too much exposure to vapours of ethyl acetate in higher concentrations may also affect the nervous system.
Ethyl ethanoate is a flammable liquid and hence precautions need to be taken that the substance is kept away from fire.