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Butane vs. Isobutane: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 21, 2023
Butane is a straight-chain alkane with four carbon atoms, while isobutane is a branched-chain isomer of butane.

Key Differences

Butane (C₄H₁₀) is an alkane with a linear structure of four carbon atoms linked consecutively. Isobutane, however, also known as methylpropane, is a structural isomer of butane with a branched chain, where one carbon atom is connected to three others at the central point.
Butane is used as a fuel in lighters and portable stoves due to its easy liquefaction under pressure. While, isobutane, because of its lower boiling point compared to butane, is often used as a refrigerant and in aerosol propellants.
In butane, the molecular structure is straight, which influences its boiling and melting points. Whereas, isobutane's branched structure results in different physical properties, such as a lower boiling point, making it more suitable for certain applications.
Butane is commonly found in natural gas and is used in gas blends for heating and cooking. Isobutane, due to its lower temperature vaporization, is preferred in colder environments and for specialized applications like refrigeration systems.
Both butane and isobutane are alkanes and hydrocarbons, sharing similar chemical properties, but their structural differences lead to varied uses and characteristics in industrial and consumer applications.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Structure

Straight-chain alkane (C₄H₁₀)
Branched-chain isomer of butane

Boiling Point

Higher boiling point
Lower boiling point

Common Uses

Fuel in lighters, portable stoves
Refrigerant, aerosol propellant

Physical Properties

Higher melting point
Lower temperature vaporization


Used in heating, cooking gas blends
Preferred in cold environments, refrigeration

Butane and Isobutane Definitions


A hydrocarbon with a straight-chain structure.
Butane is commonly used in disposable lighters.


A refrigerant with a lower boiling point than butane.
Isobutane is utilized in domestic refrigerators.


An alkane with four carbon atoms.
Butane is a component of natural gas.


A gas used in cold weather applications due to its vaporization properties.
Isobutane is preferred for portable stoves in cold climates.


A gas that liquefies under pressure, used as a fuel.
Portable camping stoves often use butane canisters.


A branched-chain isomer of butane.
Isobutane is used as a propellant in aerosol sprays.


A flammable hydrocarbon gas with various applications.
Butane torches are used in culinary applications for caramelizing sugar.


Also known as methylpropane.
Isobutane's chemical name, methylpropane, indicates its molecular structure.


A gaseous fuel commonly used in heating.
Many outdoor heaters are powered by butane.


An alkane used in specialized industrial applications.
Isobutane is often used in the production of isooctane, a high-octane fuel component.


Either of two isomers of a gaseous hydrocarbon, C4H10, produced synthetically from petroleum and used as a household fuel, refrigerant, and aerosol propellant and in the manufacture of synthetic rubber.


(organic compound) A hydrocarbon, a particular isomer of C4H10 found in natural gas.


(organic compound) A hydrocarbon (either of the two isomers of C4H10 n-butane, and 2-methyl-propane) found in gaseous petroleum fractions.


The n-butane isomer only.


An inflammable gaseous saturated hydrocarbon, C4H10, of the marsh gas, or paraffin, series.


Occurs in natural gas; used in the manufacture of rubber and fuels


What makes isobutane different from butane in structure?

Isobutane has a branched-chain structure, whereas butane has a straight-chain structure.

Are butane and isobutane interchangeable in uses?

No, they are not fully interchangeable due to differences in physical properties and applications.

Why is isobutane used as a refrigerant?

Isobutane is used as a refrigerant due to its lower boiling point and efficient vaporization at lower temperatures.

Is butane flammable?

Yes, butane is highly flammable.

What is the primary use of butane?

Butane is primarily used as a fuel in lighters and portable cooking devices.

What is the boiling point of butane?

Butane has a higher boiling point compared to isobutane.

Why is isobutane preferred in colder environments?

Isobutane is preferred in colder environments due to its lower temperature vaporization property.

Can isobutane be used as a fuel?

Yes, isobutane can be used as a fuel, especially in applications requiring low-temperature performance.

What is the chemical formula of butane?

The chemical formula of butane is C₄H₁₀.

Can butane be found in natural gas?

Yes, butane is a component of natural gas.

How is butane stored and transported?

Butane is usually stored and transported in pressurized liquid form in cylinders or canisters.

What are the safety concerns with butane?

The main safety concerns with butane are its flammability and risk of explosion if not handled properly.

What is a common application of isobutane in consumer products?

A common application of isobutane is as a propellant in aerosol sprays.

Does butane have a distinctive smell?

Butane is odorless in its natural state; an odorant is often added for safety reasons.

Can isobutane be used in butane lighters?

While technically possible, isobutane is not typically used in butane lighters due to its different properties.

Are there health risks associated with inhaling butane?

Yes, inhaling butane can be harmful and potentially fatal, leading to issues like asphyxiation or cardiac effects.

Is butane used in food preparation?

Yes, butane is used in culinary torches for processes like caramelizing sugars.

How are butane and isobutane similar?

Both are alkanes and hydrocarbons, sharing similar chemical properties like flammability.

What industries use isobutane extensively?

Isobutane is extensively used in the refrigeration and cosmetic industries.

Is isobutane more environmentally friendly than butane?

Isobutane is considered more environmentally friendly as a refrigerant compared to some other substances.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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