Carbon Tetrachloride (CCl4)

What is Carbon Tetrachloride?

Carbon tetrachloride, a tetrahedral molecule consisting of four chloride atoms and a single carbon atom, is one of the most important compounds in this category.

Its IUPAC name is tetrachloromethane.

Organic compounds that have a halogen group element as a functional group are called haloalkanes or haloarenes depending on the structure of the compounds. If it is an aliphatic compound it is called haloalkane and if the compound is aromatic then it is referred to as haloarenes.

Those compounds that have two or more than two halogen groups in them are known as polyhalogenated compounds. These polyhalogenated compounds have special properties and find a wide range of applications in the industry.

Carbon Tetrachloride Uses & Effects

Carbon Tetrachloride Formula

The formula for Carbon Tetrachloride is: CCl4

Carbon Tetrachloride Structure

The structure of CCl4 is shown in the figure below.

Carbon Tetrachloride Structure

CCL4 Structure

Properties of Carbon Tetrachloride

  • It was first discovered in 1839 by Henri Victor Regnault. He synthesized this compound by reacting chloroform with chlorine. These days it is mainly produced from methane.
  • The positioning of four chlorine atoms in carbon tetrachloride is symmetric and hence it is a non-polar molecule.

Carbon Tetrachloride Uses

  • The non-polarity of Carbon Tetrachloride makes it an excellent solvent for non-polar substances.
  • It is also used as a source of chlorine in the synthesis of other chlorine-based organic compounds.
  • The absence of hydrogen atom in carbon tetrachloride makes it useful in NMR spectroscopy and its solvent properties make it a usable option for infrared spectroscopy.
  • Tetrachloromethane has been also used as a fire extinguisher in the past. It prevented fire by extinguishing the flames; its vaporization prevented the combustion reaction.

However, these uses of carbon tetrachloride were suppressed after the detection of the toxic effects of this compound.

Effects of Carbon Tetrachloride

Carbon tetrachloride is a toxic material. Although it has a wide range of applications, its use has been highly suppressed.

  • Carbon tetrachloride hazards include severe damage to the nervous system, kidneys, degenerate liver, it can even cause cancer.
  • It may lead to coma or even death in case of exposure to concentrated tetrachloromethane.
  • Continued exposure to this gas can cause depression by affecting the nervous system.
  • Apart from its toxicity, it severely affects our environment. It is a greenhouse gas and has ozone-depleting properties and it is a significant cause of global warming and environmental damage.
  • The toxic effects of carbon tetrachloride have played the most important role in suppressing the use of this compound in different industries and thus preventing further damage to our environment. Its chemistry has been an important topic of research ever since its first synthesis.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the uses of carbon tetrachloride?

Carbon tetrachloride was commonly used in the past as a cleaning fluid (as a degreasing agent in dry cleaning institutions and other industries, and as a spot remover for clothes, furniture, and carpeting in households). Carbon tetrachloride has also been used in fire extinguishers and as a fumigant in grain in order to kill insects.

What happens when carbon tetrachloride is exposed to steam?

In the presence of metals that can behave as catalysts (such as iron and aluminium), carbon tetrachloride is decomposed by water. If it is overheated steam, carbon tetrachloride can also be decomposed to create phosgene, even without the presence of a metal catalyst.

Comment on the structure of carbon tetrachloride

Four chlorine atoms are symmetrically arranged in the carbon tetrachloride molecule as corners in a tetrahedral structure, connected by single covalent bonds to a central carbon atom.

To learn more about this topic and other related topics, such as the effects of dichloromethane on the environment, download BYJU’S – The Learning App.

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