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Skeletal formula of glyoxal
Space-filling model of glyox
Preferred IUPAC name
Systematic IUPAC name
Other names
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.003.160
Molar mass 58.04 g·mol−1
Density 1.27 g/cm3
Melting point 15 °C (59 °F; 288 K)
Boiling point 51 °C (124 °F; 324 K)
1.044 J/(K·g)
NFPA 704
Flammability code 1: Must be pre-heated before ignition can occur. Flash point over 93 °C (200 °F). E.g., canola oil Health code 2: Intense or continued but not chronic exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury. E.g., chloroform Reactivity code 1: Normally stable, but can become unstable at elevated temperatures and pressures. E.g., calcium Special hazards (white): no codeNFPA 704 four-colored diamond
Flash point −4 °C (25 °F; 269 K)
285 °C (545 °F; 558 K)
Related compounds
Related aldehydes
Related compounds
glyoxylic acid
glycolic acid
oxalic acid
pyruvic acid
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Glyoxal is an organic compound with the chemical formula OCHCHO. It is a yellow-colored liquid that evaporates to give a green-colored gas. Glyoxal is the smallest dialdehyde (two aldehyde groups), its structure is more complicated than typically represented because the molecule hydrates and oligomerizes. It is produced industrially as a precursor to many products.[1]


Glyoxal was first prepared and named by the German-British chemist Heinrich Debus (1824–1915) by reacting ethanol with nitric acid.[2][3]

Commercial glyoxal is prepared either by the gas-phase oxidation of ethylene glycol in the presence of a silver or copper catalyst (the Laporte process) or by the liquid-phase oxidation of acetaldehyde with nitric acid.[1] Global nameplate capacity is around 220,000 tons[clarification needed], with production rates less, due to overcapacity mostly in Asia. Most production is done via the gas-phase oxidation route.

The first commercial glyoxal source was in Lamotte, France, started in 1960, the single largest commercial source is BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany, at around 60,000 tons per year. Other production sites exist also in the US and China. Commercial bulk glyoxal is made and reported as a 40%-strength solution in water.

Glyoxal may be synthesized in the laboratory by oxidation of acetaldehyde with selenious acid,[4] the preparation of anhydrous glyoxal entails heating solid glyoxal hydrate(s) with phosphorus pentoxide and condensing the vapors in a cold trap.[5] The experimentally determined Henry's law constant of glyoxal is:

KH = 4.19 × 105 × exp[62.2 × 103/R × (1/T1/298)].[6][clarification needed]


Coated paper and textile finishes use large amounts of glyoxal as a crosslinker for starch-based formulations. It condenses with urea to afford 4,5-dihydroxy-2-imidazolidinone, which further reacts with formaldehyde to give the bis(hydroxymethyl) derivative used for wrinkle-resistant chemical treatments. It[clarification needed] is used as a solubilizer and cross-linking agent in polymer chemistry:

Glyoxal is a valuable building block in organic synthesis, especially in the synthesis of heterocycles such as imidazoles.[7] A convenient form of the reagent for use in the laboratory is its bis(hemiacetal) with ethylene glycol, 1,4-dioxane-2,3-diol, this compound is commercially available.

Glyoxal solutions can also be used as a fixative for histology, that is, a method of preserving cells for examining them under a microscope.

Speciation in solution[edit]

Glyoxal is supplied typically as a 40% aqueous solution. Like other small aldehydes, glyoxal forms hydrates. Furthermore, the hydrates condense to give a series of oligomers, the structures of which remain uncertain, for most applications, the exact nature of the species in solution is inconsequential. At least two hydrates of glyoxal are sold commercially:

  • glyoxal dimer dihydrate: [(CHO)2]2[H2O]2, 1,4-dioxane-trans-2,3-diol (CAS 4845-50-5, m.p. 91–95 °C),
  • glyoxal trimer dihydrate: [(CHO)2]3(H2O)2 (CAS 4405-13-4).

It is estimated that, at concentrations less than 1 M, glyoxal exists predominantly as the monomer or hydrates thereof, i.e., OCHCHO, OCHCH(OH)2, or (HO)2CHCH(OH)2. At concentrations above 1 M, dimers predominate. These dimers are probably dioxolanes, with the formula [(HO)CH]2O2CHCHO.[8] Dimer and trimers precipitate as solids from cold solutions.

Other occurrences[edit]

Glyoxal is an inflammatory compound formed when cooking oils and fats are heated to high temperatures.[citation needed]

Glyoxal has been observed as a trace gas in the atmosphere, e.g. as an oxidation product of hydrocarbons.[9] Tropospheric concentrations of 0–200 ppt by volume have been reported, in polluted regions up to 1 ppb by volume.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mattioda, Georges; Blanc, Alain (2005), "Glyoxal", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Weinheim: Wiley-VCH, doi:10.1002/14356007.a12_491.pub2 
  2. ^ See:
  3. ^ Henry Enfield Roscoe and Carl Schorlemmer, A Treatise on Chemistry, vol. 3 (New York, New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1890), pp. 101-102.
  4. ^ Ronzio, A. R.; Waugh, T. D. (1944). "Glyoxal Bisulfite". Organic Syntheses. 24: 61. ; Collective Volume, 3, p. 438 
  5. ^ Harries, C.; Temme, F. (1907). "Über monomolekulares und trimolekulares Glyoxal" [On monomoleular and trimoecular glyoxal]. Berichte. 40 (1): 165–172. doi:10.1002/cber.19070400124. Man erhitzt nun das Glyoxal-Phosphorpentoxyd-Gemisch mit freier Flamme und beobachtet bald, dass sich unter Schwarzfärbung des Kolbeninhalte ein flüchtiges grünes Gas bildet, welches sich in der gekühlten Vorlage zu schönen Krystallen von gelber Farbe kondensiert. [One heats the mixture of (crude) glyoxal and P4O10 with an open flame and soon observes, upon blackening of the contents, a mobile green gas which condenses in the cooled flask as beautiful yellow crystals.] 
  6. ^ Ip, H. S.; Huang, X. H.; Yu, J. Z. (2009). "Effective Henry's law constants of glyoxal, glyoxylic acid, and glycolic acid". Geophys. Res. Lett. 36 (1): L01802. Bibcode:2009GeoRL..36.1802I. doi:10.1029/2008GL036212. 
  7. ^ Snyder, H. R.; Handrick, R. G.; Brooks, L. A. (1942). "Imidazole". Organic Syntheses. 22: 65. ; Collective Volume, 3, p. 471 
  8. ^ Whipple, E. B. (1970). "Structure of Glyoxal in Water". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 92 (24): 7183–7186. doi:10.1021/ja00727a027. 
  9. ^ Vrekoussis, M.; Wittrock, F.; Richter, A.; Burrows, J. P. (2009). "Temporal and spatial variability of glyoxal as observed from space". Atmos. Chem. Phys. 9: 4485–4504. doi:10.5194/acp-9-4485-2009. 
  10. ^ Volkamer, Rainer; et al. (2007). "A missing sink for gas‐phase glyoxal in Mexico City: Formation of secondary organic aerosol". Geophys. Res. Lett. 34: 19. doi:10.1029/2007gl030752. 

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