Toluene, also known as Methylbenzene, appears as a clear colorless liquid with a distinct aromatic odor. It is insoluble in water and has a relatively low density of 7.2 lb / gal. Vapors of toluene are heavier than air. It is widely used in aviation and automotive fuels, as a solvent, and in other chemicals synthesis.
Toluene is primarily manufactured by catalytic reforming of petroleum streams and this process covers around 87% of the entire toluene production. A small percentage of the entire toluene production is produced during the manufacturing process of ethylene and propylene, where Toluene is separated from the pyrolysis gasoline produced in the steam crackers. Additionally, separation of coal-tar from coke ovens accounts for another 1% of total toluene manufacturing and the remaining is produced from the production of styrene as a by-product.
Toluene can be used to improve the performance of internal combustion engines. It can also be used the blending of jet fuel surrogates due to the presence of aromatic compounds in its structure.
Toluene is used in cosmetic products such as nail polish to give of a smooth, glossy effect upon evaporation.
Toluene is used in haemoglobin extraction from red blood cells in research experiments. It is also used as a coolant in nuclear reactors due to its relatively good heat transfer properties.