The xylene isomers

Xylene encompasses three isomers of dimethylbenzene. The isomers are distinguished by the designations ortho- (o-), meta- (m-), and para- (p-), which specify to which carbon atoms (of the benzene ring) the two methyl groups are attached. Counting the carbon atoms from one of the ring carbons bonded to a methyl group, and counting towards the second ring carbon bonded to a methyl group, the o- isomer has the IUPAC name of 1,2-dimethylbenzene, the m- isomer has the IUPAC name of 1,3-dimethylbenzene, and the p- isomer has the IUPAC name of 1,4-dimethylbenzene. The mixture is a slightly greasy, colourless liquid commonly encountered as a solvent. Several million tons are produced annually.[1]



Xylenes represent about 0.5–1% of crude oil, depending on the source (hence xylenes are found in small amounts in gasoline and airplane fuels). It is mainly produced from reformate. It is also obtained from coal carbonisation derived from coke ovens. It is produced by dehydrocyclodimerization and by methylating of toluene and benzene.[1][2]

Via the Isomar process, the ratio of isomers can be shifted to favor p-xylene, which is most valued. This conversion is catalysed by zeolites.[1]


Some chemical and physical properties differ from isomer to isomer. The melting point ranges from −47.87 °C (−54.17 °F) (m-xylene) to 13.26 °C (55.87 °F) (p-xylene). The boiling point for each isomer is around 140 °C (284.00 °F). The density of each is around 0.87 g/mL (7.26 lb/U.S. gallon or 8.72 lb/imp gallon) and thus is less dense than water. Xylene in air can be smelled at 0.08 to 3.7 parts of xylene per million parts of air (ppm) and can begin to be tasted in water at 0.53 to 1.8 ppm.

Xylene Isomers
Common name Xylenes o-Xylene m-Xylene p-Xylene
Systematic name Dimethylbenzenes 1,2-Dimethylbenzene 1,3-Dimethylbenzene 1,4-Dimethylbenzene
Other names Xylols o-Xylol;
Molecular formula C8H10, C6H4(CH3)2 or C6H4C2H6
SMILES Cc1c(C)cccc1 Cc1cc(C)ccc1 Cc1ccc(C)cc1
Molar mass 106.16 g/mol
Appearance clear, colorless liquid
CAS number [1330-20-7] [95-47-6] [108-38-3] [106-42-3]
Density and phase 0.864 g/mL, liquid 0.88 g/mL, liquid 0.86 g/mL, liquid 0.86 g/mL, liquid
Solubility in water practically insoluble
Soluble in non-polar solvents such as aromatic hydrocarbons
Melting point −47.4 °C (−53.3 °F; 226 K) −25 °C (−13 °F; 248 K) −48 °C (−54.4 °F; 225 K) 13 °C (55.4 °F; 286 K)
Boiling point 138.5 °C (281.3 °F; 412 K) 144 °C (291.2 °F; 417 K) 139 °C (282.2 °F; 412 K) 138 °C (280.4 °F; 411 K)
Viscosity 0.812 cP at 20 °C (68 °F) 0.62 cP at 20 °C (68 °F) 0.34 cP at 30 °C (86 °F)
MSDS Xylenes o-Xylene m-Xylene p-Xylene
EU Classification Harmful (Xn)
NFPA 704
NFPA 704.svg
Flash point 30 °C (86 °F) 17 °C (63 °F) 25 °C (77 °F) 25 °C (77 °F)
R/S statement R10, R20/21, R38: (S2), S25
RTECS number ZE2450000 ZE2275000 ZE2625000
Supplementary data page
Structure & properties n, εr, etc.
Thermodynamic data Phase behaviour
Solid, liquid, gas
Spectral data UV, IR, NMR, MS
Related compounds
Related aromatic
toluene, mesitylene, benzene, ethylbenzene
Related compounds xylenols - types of phenols
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 25°C, 100 kPa)
Infobox disclaimer and references

Xylenes form azeotropes with water and a variety of alcohols. With water the azeotrope consists of 60% xylenes and boils at 90 °C. As with many alkylbenzene compounds, xylenes form complexes with various halocarbons. The complexes of different isomers often have dramatically different properties from each other.[3]


Terephthalic acid and related derivatives

p-Xylene is the principal precursor to terephthalic acid and dimethyl terephthalate, both monomers used in the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles and polyester clothing. 98% of p-xylene production, and half of all xylene, is consumed in this way.[4][5] o-Xylene is an important precursor to phthalic anhydride. The demand for isophthalic acid is relatively modest so m-xylene is rarely sought (and hence the utility of its conversion to the o- and p-isomers).

Solvent applications

Xylene is used as a solvent. In this application, the mixture of isomers is often referred to as xylenes or xylol. Solvent xylene often contains a small percentage of ethylbenzene. Like the individual isomers, the mixture is colorless, sweet-smelling, and highly flammable. Areas of application include printing, rubber, and leather industries. It is a common component of ink, rubber, adhesive,[6] and leather industries. In thinning paints and varnishes, it can be substituted for toluene where slower drying is desired. Similarly it is a cleaning agent, e.g., for steel, silicon wafers, and chips. In dentistry, xylene can be used to dissolve gutta percha, a material used for endodontics (root canal treatments).

Laboratory uses

It is used in the laboratory to make baths with dry ice to cool reaction vessels, and as a solvent to remove synthetic immersion oil from the microscope objective in light microscopy.[7] In histology, xylene is also used for clearing the tissues following dehydration in preparation for paraffin wax infiltration. It is also used after sections have been stained to make them hydrophobic so that a coverslip may be applied with a resin in solvent.

Precursor to other compounds

Although conversion to terephthalic acid is the dominant chemical conversion, xylenes are precursors to other chemical compounds. For instance chlorination of both methyl groups gives the corresponding xylene dichlorides (bis(chloromethyl)benzenes).

Health effects

Xylenes are not highly toxic as indicated by the high values of the LD50, which range from 200 to 4000 mg/kg for animals. The principal mechanism of detoxification is oxidation to methylbenzoic acid and hydroxylation to hydroxylene.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Jörg Fabri, Ulrich Graeser, Thomas A. Simo "Xylenes" in Ullmann's Encylopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2002, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a28_433.
  2. ^ United States Patent 5,043,502
  3. ^ Clark J. E.; Luthy, R. V. (1955). "Separation of Xylenes". Ind. Eng. Chem. 47 (2): 250–253. doi:10.1021/ie50542a028. 
  4. ^ http://apps.kemi.se/flodessok/floden/kemamne_eng/xylen_eng.htm
  5. ^ http://www.icis.com/v2/chemicals/9076060/paraxylene.html
  6. ^ http://www.bostik-amer.com/upload/download/MSDS%20Blu%20Tack.pdf
  7. ^ Cargille, John (1964 (revised 1985)), "Immersion Oil and the Microscope", New York Microscopical Society Yearbook, http://www.cargille.com/immersionoilmicroscope.shtml 

External links

 Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "xylene". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Xylene — Xylène ortho xylène C6H4(CH3)2 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • xylène — [ gzilɛn; ksilɛn ] n. m. • 1872; de xyl(o) et ène ♦ Chim. Hydrocarbure liquide benzénique, de formule C6H4 (CH3)2, extrait du benzol ou de certaines fractions de pétrole, utilisé comme solvant et comme matière première pour des synthèses… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Xylene — Xy lene, n. [Gr. xy lon wood.] (Chem.) Any of a group of three metameric hydrocarbons of the aromatic series, found in coal and wood tar, and so named because found in crude wood spirit. They are colorless, oily, inflammable liquids,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • xylene — 1851, from Gk. xylon wood, which is of unknown origin, + ENE (Cf. ene) …   Etymology dictionary

  • xylene — [zī′lēn΄] n. [ XYL(O) + ENE] any of three isomeric, colorless hydrocarbons, C8H10, having the characteristics of benzene and derived from coal tar, wood tar, and petroleum: used as solvents, antiseptics, etc …   English World dictionary

  • Xylène — Le xylène ou diméthylbenzène est un groupe d hydrocarbures aromatiques dérivés méthylés du benzène. Il est représenté par trois isomères structuraux : 1,2 diméthylbenzène, 1,3 diméthylbenzène et 1,4 diméthylbenzène (appelés respectivement… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • xylene — /zuy leen/, n. Chem. any of three oily, colorless, water insoluble, flammable, toxic, isomeric liquids, C8H10, of the benzene series, obtained mostly from coal tar: used chiefly in the manufacture of dyes. Also, xylol /zuy lawl, lol/. Also called …   Universalium

  • xylene — noun /ˈzaɪliːn/ Any of a group of three isomeric aromatic hydrocarbons, di methyl benzene, found in coal and wood tar. [...] proceeding, desperately, from such opiated catarrh preparations as Collis Browns Mixture on to cocainized brain tonics,… …   Wiktionary

  • xylene —    Toluene is a gas or liquid used as a solvent and as a thinner for certain inks (e.g., some permanent markers), paints, and varnishes. It is typically a synthetic chemical with a sweet smelling odor, produced from petroleum, and found in… …   Glossary of Art Terms

  • xylene — ksilenas statusas T sritis chemija formulė (CH₃)₂C₆H₄ atitikmenys: angl. xylene rus. ксилол ryšiai: sinonimas – dimetilbenzenas …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”