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What is Propane?

Propane is a flammable hydrocarbon gas, which is both colorless and odorless in its natural state. The only reason we can smell propane is because an odorant is added to it before it’s sold, for safety purposes. Due to this smell, you can easily detect the presence of propane in the event of a leak. Because propane is made up only of carbon and hydrogen — the chemical formula is C3H8 — it’s an organic compound. It’s also a paraffin hydrocarbon, similar to ethane or methane.

Although propane is a gas, it’s easily liquified with pressure, making it easy to store and transport in bulk form. For example, the propane tanks many people use for grilling are filled with liquid propane. The liquid, once released from the container, reverts to its gaseous form. For this reason, propane is often referred to as Liquified Petroleum Gas, or LPG.

Propane Chemical Formula

The chemical formula of propane, C3H8, can be notated or described in multiple ways, listed here:

  • The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry Name (IUPAC): Propane
  • The International Chemical Identifier (InChl): 1S/C3H8/c1-3-2/h3H2,1-2H3
  • The International Chemical Identifier Key: ATUOYWHBWRKTHZ-UHFFFAOYSA-N
  • Simplified Molecular-Input Line-Entry System (Canonical SMILES): CCC
  • Molecular Formulas:
    • From EU Food Improvement Agents: CH3CH2CH3
    • From ILO International Chemical Safety Cards: C3H8, and CH3CH2CH3
    • From PubChem: C3H8

Propane Chemical Structure

Just as there are different methods of notating propane’s chemical makeup, there are different ways of illustrating the structure of a propane molecule.

Two Dimensional

Two-dimensional propane structure.

Three Dimensional

Three-dimensional propane structure.

Crystal Structures

Crystal structure of propane.