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Carbon Monoxide


Carbon monoxide is a very important industrial compound. In the form of producer gas or water gas, it is widely used as a fuel in industrial operations. The gas is also an effective reducing agent. For example, when carbon monoxide is passed over hot iron oxides, the oxides are reduced to metallic iron, while the carbon monoxide is oxidized to carbon dioxide.

In another application a mixture of metallic ores is heated to 122–176°F (50–80°C) in the presence of producer gas. All oxides except those of nickel are reduced to their metallic state. This process, known as the Mond process, is a way of separating nickel from other metals with which it commonly occurs.

Yet another use of the gas is in the Fischer-Tropsch process for the manufacture of hydrocarbons and their oxygen derivatives from a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide also reacts with certain metals, especially iron, cobalt, and nickel, to form compounds known as carbonyls. Some of the carbonyls have unusual physical and chemical properties that make them useful in industry. The highly toxic nickel tetracarbonyl, for example, is used to produce very pure nickel coatings and powders.

See also Metallurgy.

David E. Newton



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Lide, D.R., ed. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2001.

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The United Nations. "The Conference and Kyoto Protocol." (March 2003). <http://unfccc.int/resource/convkp.html>.


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—A form of oxidation that occurs so rapidly that noticeable heat and light are produced.


—An iron-containing, complex molecule carried in red blood cells that binds oxygen for transport to other areas of the body.

Incomplete combustion

—Combustion that occurs in such a way that fuel is not completely oxidized. The incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuel, for example, always results in the formation of some carbon monoxide.

Intercellular spaces

—The spaces between cells in tissue.

Reductant (reducing agent)

—A chemical substance which reduces materials by donating electrons to them.


—The extent to which a substance is poisonous.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Calcium Sulfate to Categorical imperativeCarbon Monoxide - History, Sources, Physiological Effects, Uses