Why does acetylene have so many industrial applications?
Acetylene is not unique to a single industry. It is used in the production of chemicals, polyethene plastics, and lighting. Its applications with metal – including welding, cutting, and heat treating – make it highly suitable for the fabrication industry. This colourless gas is also ideal for flame gouging, spot heating, hardening, texturing, cleaning, and thermal spraying many materials.
How can a gas be so versatile? Acetylene forms an integral part of many crucial processes thanks to its unique properties.
Together with oxygen, acetylene produces a flame temperature of 3,150°C. It is the hottest of all the fuel gases and ideal for welding heavy metals like steel. This gas also gives the fastest pre-heating and piercing times, and the lowest level of hardening to the surface of the cut, of any of the other fuel gas combinations.
These properties are commonly utilised in metal processes: welding, cutting, and heat treating. It serves as an essential medium for heat treating metals and other materials. Industries that require metal to be shaped accurately, such as automotive part manufacturing and the fabrication of metal parts, use acetylene in their critical processes.
Acetylene’s properties also make it one of the few recommended fuel gases for underground working conditions. As it is slightly lighter than air, it doesn’t gather in low areas and cause a potential hazard.
There are strict measures that you need to take with acetylene before industrial use. The production process needs to be flawless to ensure it is pure. If not, it can react with oxygen or impurities and explode. Before industrial use, they dissolve acetylene in a solvent. This prevents decomposition and allows storage of greater quantities of gas, safely at low pressure.
Always use an acetylene cylinder in an upright position and in well-ventilated areas. Due to it being lighter than air, acetylene can rise into roof spaces and empty areas and become a potential hazard. If working in a ventilated area is not possible, you should use extraction to prevent any potentially dangerous products accumulating.
When properly utilised, you can use acetylene in many crucial processes in various industries. However, with a potentially hazardous gas, safety is paramount. Entrust installation to a specialist gas installer who knows what they are doing.