|Jmol-3D images||Image 1|
|Molar mass||58.08 g mol−1|
|Solubility in water||Appreciable|
|Flash point||−37 °C (−35 °F)|
|747 °C (1,377 °F)|
| (what is: / ?)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Propylene oxide is an organic compound with the molecular formula CH3CHCH2O. This colourless volatile liquid is produced on a large scale industrially, its major application being its use for the production of polyether polyols for use in making polyurethane plastics. It is chiral epoxide, although it commonly used as a racemic mixture.
Industrial production of propylene oxide starts from propylene. Two general approaches are employed, one involving hydrochlorination and the other involving oxidation. In 2005, about half of the world production was through chlorohydrin technology and one half via oxidation routes. The latter approach is growing in importance.
Hydrochlorination route 
The traditional route proceeds via the conversion of propylene to chloropropanols:
The reaction produces a mixture of 1-chloro-2-propanol and 2-chloro-1-propanol, which is then dehydrochlorinated. For example:
Lime is often used as a chlorine absorber.
Co-oxidation of propylene 
- CH3CH=CH2 + Ph-CH2CH3 + O2 → CH3CHCH2O + Ph-CH=CH2 + H2O
The coproducts of these reactions, t-butyl alcohol or styrene, are useful feedstock for other products. For example, t-butyl alcohol reacts with methanol to give MTBE, an additive for gasoline. Before the current ban of MTBE, propylene/isobutane was one of the most important production process.
Oxidation of propylene 
In April 2003, Sumitomo Chemical commercialized the first PO-only plant in Japan, which produces propylene oxide from oxidation of cumene without significant production of other products. This method is a variant of the POSM process (co-oxidation) that uses cumene hydroperoxide instead of ethylbenzene hydroperoxide and recycles the coproduct (alpha-hydroxycumene) via dehydration and hydrogenation back to cumene.
- CH3CH=CH2 + H2O2 → CH3CHCH2O + H2O
In this process no side products other than water are generated.
Between 60 and 70% of all propylene oxide is converted to polyether polyols for the production of polyurethane plastics. About 20% of propylene oxide is hydrolyzed into propylene glycol, via a process which is accelerated by acid or base catalysis. Other major products are polypropylene glycol, propylene glycol ethers, and propylene carbonate.
Historic and niche uses 
Propylene oxide was once used as a racing fuel, but that usage is now prohibited under the US NHRA rules for safety reasons. It has also been used in glow fuel for model aircraft and surface vehicles, typically combined in small percentages of around 2% as an additive to the typical methanol, nitromethane, and oil mix. It is also used in thermobaric weapons, and microbial fumigation.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of propylene oxide to pasteurize raw almonds beginning on September 1, 2007 in response to two incidents of contamination by Salmonella in commercial orchards, one incident occurring in Canada, and one incident in the United States. Pistachio nuts can also be subjected to propylene oxide to control Salmonella. It is a method approved by the FDA.
Propylene oxide is commonly used in the preparation of biological samples for electron microscopy, to remove residual ethanol previously used for dehydration. In a typical procedure, the sample is first immersed in a mixture of equal volumes of ethanol and propylene oxide for 5 minutes, and then four times in pure oxide, 10 minutes each.
- Dietmar Kahlich, Uwe Wiechern, Jörg Lindner “Propylene Oxide” in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2002 by Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a22_239Article Online Posting Date: June 15, 2000
- "Summary of Sumitomo process from Nexant Reports". Retrieved 2007-09-18.
- "New BASF and Dow HPPO Plant in Antwerp Completes Start-Up Phase". Retrieved 2009-03-05.
- Alex Tullo (2004). Dow, BASF to build Propylene Oxide 82 (36). p. 15.
- "Usage of proplyene oxide, from Dow Chemical". Retrieved 2007-09-10.
- See The FDA Guidance Document For More Info
- Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA (30 March 2007). "Almonds Grown in California; Outgoing Quality Control Requirements" (PDF). Federal Register 72 (61): 15,021–15,036. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-08-22.
- "Safety data for propylene oxide".
- WebBook page for C3H6O
- Propylene oxide at the United States Environmental Protection Agency
- Propylene oxide - chemical product info: properties, production, applications.
- Propylene oxide at the Technology Transfer Network Air Toxics Web Site