What is Methyl Ethyl Ketone?
Methyl Ethyl Ketone also known as 2-butanone, and methyl acetone, is commonly abbreviated as MEK. It is a natural liquid emulsifier derived as a by-product of industrial chemicals. It is used in many industries as a solvent and in the manufacture of synthetic rubber, paraffin wax, lubricating oils, and to make other chemical products, such as paints, ink, adhesives, polymers, and other coating products such as lacquer and varnish. Other industries that use methyl ethyl ketones in manufacturing are personal care products such as antiseptics, anesthetics, lotions, and pharmaceutical drugs. MEK is also utilized in powder coatings in the automobile and electronics industries.
MEK is a naturally occurring substance that is found in negligible quantities in many foods including avocadoes, coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, grapefruit, wheat germ, sugar, maple syrup, vinegar, etc.
Produced on a mass scale, the substance is a clear liquid and has a distinct minty smell. You may be familiar with the recognizable aroma of dry erase markers. That is none other than MEK, as it is mixed with the colored ink. The low viscosity allows the ink to flow and prevents drying out.
MEK for cleaning aircraft
MEK or methyl ethyl ketone is an extremely effective solvent and degreaser that acts much like acetone, but stronger. It also has a slower evaporation rate, boils at a higher temperature, and quickly turns into vapor. Methyl ethyl ketone effectively dissolves many substances, such as dirt, grime, and grease, and removes rust. MEK is used to clean all kinds of fuel turbine compressors from small helicopters to the biggest power-producing engines in the aviation industry.
Considerations to keep in mind when choosing to use MEK for aircraft cleaning:
It is highly flammable and can ignite simply from the vapor mixing with warm air.
It can be hazardous to employee’s health if exposed to skin or eyes, or if the vapors are inhaled. Suitable ventilation, safety clothing and masks must be worn when using MEK to clean aircraft.
Its powerful solvent properties can damage plastic parts, warp window seals, or corrode certain materials.
With proper knowledge and careful use, MEK remains one of the most effective chemical solvent cleaners for use in aviation cleaning.
Benefits of Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)
Slow evaporation rate
High boiling point
Highly effective degreaser
NIOSH The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health advises that If you work in an industry that uses methyl ethyl ketone, please read chemical labels and the Safety Data Sheets for hazard information. Visit NIOSH’s page on Managing Chemical Safety in the Workplace.
Methyl Ethyl Ketone as a solvent cleaner can also erase stubborn marks and stains on metal surfaces such as stainless steel. It can work on most types of metal surfaces, except for titanium and platinum. It is a great choice to be used to clean aircraft windows. In fact, this chemical is used in hospitals, food processing plants, cosmetics, pharmaceutical labs, testing laboratories and other industries that deal with sensitive or hazardous substances.
Methyl Ketone as a solvent cleaner can also be used on a variety of painted metals surfaces to remove dirt, dust, grease, grime, rust, and stains. This organic solvent also works extremely well on almost any type of painted surface. Methyl Ketone as a paint thinner can also remove the appearance of fingerprints and faded logos on painted metal surfaces.
Fun Facts about Methyl Ethyl Ketone
The first known use of methyl ethyl ketone was in 1876
In the early 1970s, pro ball players started soaking their balls in methyl ethyl ketone to soften the cover stocks. They enjoyed such great success from the softened balls and game scores increased so much that rules were put into place mandating a degree of cover stock hardness. This new policy was enforced by a device known as a Shore durometer that tested the balls cover stock hardness.
In 1984, Inventors Gordon L. Osgood and George G. Reinhard filed a worldwide patent introducing methyl ethyl ketone as a fuel additive said to increase power output, lower the ignition point of the carrier fuel, increase gas mileage, clean the engine, and reduce the effect of cold temperatures on the fuel viscosity, turbidity, and color of the fuel, especially in diesel. The additive has proven effective even to temperatures as severe as -40° C.
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