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Last Updated : 19 Dec, 2023
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Butane, or n-butane, is the fourth member of the alkane group in hydrocarbons. Butane is one of the most useful organic compounds as it is heavily used by humans as a fuel source. It consists of 4 Carbon and 10 Hydrogen atoms, hence the name butane. Butane is found in natural gas and crude oil but is also produced in huge amounts during the refinement of petroleum to make gasoline. In this article, we will learn about the organic compound butane in detail with its formula, structure, isomers, properties including physical and chemical, and its use cases in the real world as well. So, let’s start learning about this very useful compound named butane.

What is Butane?

Butane is a chemical compound under the category of Alkanes. Butane is the fourth member of the alkane family and it consists of 4 carbon atoms and 10 Hydrogen atoms.

Butane easily vaporizes at room temperature and it is a highly flammable and colorless easy liquifying gas. In butane, all the carbons with carbon and hydrogen are bonded with single covalent bonds (C – C and C – H). There is no electronegativity in C – C bond and little in C – H bond. This results in no charge separation and no dipole movement. Butane is under the group of Alkanes. Butane is also called Tetracarbane, Butyl hydride, and Quartane.

Chemical Formula and Structure of Butane

Butane consists of 4 carbon atoms and 10 Hydrogen atoms thus the chemical formula for butane is C4H10 and butane’s structure is given as follows:

Structure of Butane


Isomers of Butane

Butane (C4H10) shows two isomerism i.e., n-butane and Isobutane. These two are structural isomerism which means both have the same chemical formula but have different structures. We can see these two isomeric structures of butane as follows:

The image added below shows the normal structure of Butane in which all carbon atoms are connected to two carbon atoms except for the last ones.



Whereas in isobutane a carbon atom is connected to three carbon atoms as mentioned in the image below,



Preparation of Butane

There are various methods such as the dehalogenation of haloalkanes and hydrogenation of alkene and alkynes. Other than this, in Wurtz reaction, and Kolbe’s Electrolysis butane is formed. Both of these reactions are given below.

Wurtz Reaction

Wurtz’s reaction is an organic chemical coupling reaction in which sodium metal reacts with two alkyl halides in the presence of a dry ether solution to produce a higher alkane as well as a molecule containing sodium and the halogen. Butane is prepared by the reaction of bromoethane with metallic Na in the presence of dry ether as:

C2H5Br + 2Na + BrC2H5 (dry ether)⇢ C2H5 – C2H5

Kolbe’s Electrolysis Process

During this reaction on electrolysis, sodium butanoate will give butane,

2CH3CH2CH2-COONa  ⇢  CH3CH2CH2CH3   +  2CO2  +  NaOH  +  H2

Physical Properties of Butane

There are various physical properties of chemical compounds such as boiling point, melting point, density, odour and state. Some of these properties of butane are as follows:

  • State: Butane is a colourless, odourless gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure but can easily be liquified using moderate pressure or low temperature.
  • Boiling Point: The boiling point of butane ranges from  -1°C to 1°C (30 to 34 °F or 272 to 274 K). At this temperature, it changes from a liquid to a gas.
  • Melting Point: Butane does not have a distinct melting point because it is a gas at room temperature. However, under extremely low temperatures ranging from −140 to −134 °C (−220 to −209 °F or 133 to 139 K) it changes from crystalline form to liquid.
  • Density: The density of butane is about 2.48 grams per litre (g/L) at standard temperature and pressure (STP) whereas the density of the liquid butane is significantly higher, around 573 kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m³) i.e., 573 grams per litre at its boiling point.
  • Solubility: Butane is not very soluble in water. However, it is soluble in organic solvents such as ethanol, acetone, and benzene. The solubility of butane in water is 61mg/L at 20°C (68°F)
  • Odour: Pure butane gas is odourless, but an odorant called ethanethiol (or thiophane) is often added to commercial butane to give it a distinctive smell due to safety concerns.
  • Flammability: Butane is a highly flammable gas. It can ignite and burn in the presence of an ignition source such as a spark, flame, or heat and oxygen with ease. 
  • Vapour Pressure: Butane has a relatively high vapour pressure. At room temperature, its vapour pressure is around 220 kPa (kilopascals), or about 2.2 times atmospheric pressure.
  • Molecular Weight: The molar mass of butane is approximately 58.12 grams per mole (g/mol).

Chemical Properties of Butane

Some of the common chemical reactions or properties of butane are as follows:

Combustion of Butane

Butane readily undergoes combustion in the presence of oxygen. The balanced equation for the complete combustion of butane is:

2 C4H10 + 13 O2→ 8 CO2 + 10 H2O

This reaction releases a large amount of heat energy and is commonly used as a fuel source in lighters and camping stoves.

Partial Combustion of Butane

When butane undergoes combustion in the presence of limited oxygen, then it forms carbon mono oxides rather than CO2. The balance chemical equation for that is as follows:

2 C4H10 + 9 O2  →  8CO + 10 H2O

Halogenation of Butane

Butane can react with halogens, such as chlorine (Cl₂) or bromine (Br₂), to form halogenated derivatives. For example, the reaction with chlorine yields chlorobutane,

C4H10 + Cl2  ⇢  C4H9Cl + HCl

The specific product formed depends on the conditions and the number of chlorine molecules reacting with butane.

Dehydrogenation of Butane

Butane can be dehydrogenated to form butenes, which are unsaturated hydrocarbons. This reaction typically requires a catalyst, such as platinum or chromium, and elevated temperatures:

C4H10  → C4H8 + H2

The resulting butenes can be used as intermediates in the production of polymers or other chemicals.

Butane reacts with oxygen and burns to form carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide and water, when oxygen is present in a sufficient amount as –

2 C4H10 + 13 O2  ⇢  8 CO2 + 10 H2O

Uses of Butane

Butane is very useful in day to day activities of humans in many ways. Some of these use cases are as follows:

  • Fuel: Butane is widely used as fuel in portable gas stoves, and camping stoves as butane can be easily liquefied under moderate pressure, making it suitable for storage and transportation in portable containers.
  • Lighter Fluid: Butane is commonly used as fuel in lighters. The pressurized butane gas is released when the button of the lighter is clicked and a spark ignites the gas to create fire and provide flame for lighting various things such as candles, gas stoves etc. 
  • Aerosol Propellant: Butane is used in aerosol products such as hairspray, deodorants, air fresheners, and spray paints.
  • Refrigerant: For small-scale refrigerators such as camping fridges, butane is used as a refrigerant as it has a low boiling point.

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Sample Questions on Butane

Question 1: What are the disadvantages of Butane?


Butane has several applications as well as disadvantages, In small quantities there is no effect, If the person was highly exposed to Butane, it causes cardiac arrest, Central nervous system depression, Cancer, Drowsiness, Unconsciousness, Temporary memory loss, Blood pressure fluctuations and some times may lead to death

Question 2: What are the different types of Butane?


Butane is under the group of Alkanes, It is a highly flammable easy liquifying gas. It can be found as two structural isomers that are n-butane and isobutane or sometimes a combination of both.

Question 3: Where is butane found?


Generally, butane occurs in natural gas, In natural gas, butane presents an extent of 1 percent. the butane will stay in the air for about 40 minutes. And also butane occurs in petroleum, In petroleum, Butane is present in a very small amount. 

Question 4: Can Butane Evaporate?


Butane evaporates at atmospheric pressure. Butane changes liquid immediately when compressed and then immediately turns to gas with reduced pressure, that is the reason for Butane using in Lighters.

Question 5: What are the isomers of Butane?


The butane is under the group of alkanes and the molecular formula is C4H10. Butane consists of 2 isomers that are n-butane and isobutane.

FAQs on Butane

Q1: What is Butane?


Butane is a highly flammable hydrocarbon gas. It is a colorless, odorless gas at room temperature and is commonly used as a fuel for various applications.

Q2: What is Chemical Formula for Butane?


Butane contains four carbon atoms and ten hydrogen atoms, thus the chemical formula for butane is C4H10.

Q3: How is Butane obtained?


Butane is primarily obtained as a byproduct during the refining of crude oil or the extraction of natural gas. It can also be produced through the processing of petroleum or the cracking of hydrocarbon compounds.

Q4: Is Butane safe to use?


Butane is generally safe to use when handled properly. However, as it is highly flammable, precautions must be taken to ensure safe storage and use. 

Q5: Can Butane be harmful to Health?


Inhaling or ingesting butane can be harmful and potentially life-threatening. It can cause dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and, in severe cases, asphyxiation or cardiac issues. Additionally, butane gas is heavier than air and can accumulate in enclosed spaces, posing a risk of explosion or suffocation.

Q6: How should Butane be Stored?


Butane should be stored in well-ventilated areas away from direct sunlight, open flames, and high temperatures. It is typically stored in pressurized containers designed for its safe storage and use.

Q7: Is Butane the same as Propane?


No, butane and propane are different hydrocarbon gases as both have different chemical structure and properties.

Q8: What are Common Uses of Butane?


Butane has several common uses, including:

  • As a fuel for portable stoves, camping equipment, and lighters.
  • As a propellant in aerosol products like hairspray, deodorant, and air fresheners.
  • In the manufacturing of rubber, plastics, and synthetic fibers.
  • As a refrigerant in some cooling systems.

Q9: How many Structural Isomers are possible for Butane?


There are two structural isomers of butane i.e., n-butane and isobutane.

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