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Toluene is a clear water-insoluble solvent with a molecular formula of C7H8, CAS: 108-88-3. It has an aromatic, benzene-like smell and is a highly volatile flammable liquid with a flash point of 4° C. It is obtained from petroleum and coal tar.
Toluene is naturally released into the atmosphere from the following: petroleum fuels, toluene-based solvents, thinners and from motor vehicle exhaust fumes. The current method to chemically manufacture toluene is through a catalytic reforming process. A hydrocarbon mixture which is rich in aromatics is passed over a dehydrated catalyst and then obtained from a cut of the distillation or solvent extraction process.
The main chemical use of toluene is to make benzene, xylenes and other solvents.
It can also be used to manufacture other chemicals such as phenol, nitrobenzene, benzoic acid and benzyl chloride.
As a solvent, toluene can be used in paints, paint thinners, adhesives, inks, resins, cleaning agents, leather tanners and inks. It can also be used to manufacture polymers that produce nylon, plastic soda bottles and for pharmaceuticals, dyes and cosmetic products. Toluene is also used as a coolant in sodium cold traps underneath nuclear reactor loops.