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    A ketene is an organic compound of the form R2C=C=O. Hermann Staudinger pioneered the research of ketenes.[1] Ketene also refers to ethenone, the specific compound of this class in which both Rs are hydrogen.



Ethenone is colourless, has a sharp odour and causes such things as eye, nose, throat, lung irritation if humans are exposed to concentrated levels. Pulmonary edema has also been noted if these levels are experienced for an extended period of time. It has a melting point of -150.5 °C (-239 °F) and a boiling point of -56.1 °C (-69 °F).


A base, usually triethylamine, removes the acidic proton alpha to the carbonyl group, inducing the formation of the carbon-carbon double bond and the loss of chloride ion.
  • Ketenes are formed in the Wolff rearrangement from α-diazoketones
  • Phenylacetic acid in the presence of base will lose water to produce phenylketene due to the high acidity of the alpha proton.
  • Ethenone (CH2=C=O) can be prepared in the laboratory by pyrolysis of acetone vapor:[2]
CH3−CO−CH3 + Δ → CH2=C=O + CH4


Ketene is very reactive, tending to attach itself to other molecules in the form of an acetyl group. It will react with itself to form cyclic dimers known as diketenes (oxetanones). It will also undergo [2+2] cycloaddition reactions to electron-rich alkynes to form cyclobutenones.

Reactions between diols (HO-R-OH) and bis-ketenes (O=C=CH-R'-CH=C=O) yield polyesters with a repeat unit of (-O-R-O-CO-R'-CO-).

Ethenone reacts with acetic acid to form acetic anhydride.

See also

  • Ynolate


  1. ^ Hermann Staudinger (1905). "Ketene, eine neue Körperklasse". Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft 38 (2): 1735-1739. doi:10.1002/cber.19050380283.
  2. ^ C. D. Hurd (1941). "Ketene". Org. Synth.; Coll. Vol. 1: 330. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ketene". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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