Difference Wiki

Ethylene vs. Ethylidene: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 6, 2024
Ethylene is a simple alkene hydrocarbon with a double bond between two carbon atoms, used in the production of plastics, while ethylidene is a less common structure with a carbon double-bonded to two other atoms.

Key Differences

Ethylene, with the chemical formula C2H4, is a colorless gas commonly used in the chemical industry. Ethylidene, while structurally related, is less common, characterized by a carbon atom double-bonded to two different atoms.
In ethylene, the double bond between the two carbon atoms allows for various chemical reactions, making it key in polymer production. Ethylidene, due to its unique structure, is less versatile and not as widely used in industrial applications.
Ethylene is essential in the production of polyethylene, the most common plastic. Ethylidene groups, on the other hand, are more likely to be found as part of more complex organic molecules.
The stability of ethylene under standard conditions makes it a valuable industrial feedstock. Ethylidene, with its different bonding arrangement, has different chemical properties and reactivity.
Ethylene also plays a role in the ripening of fruits and is used in agriculture. Ethylidene is rarely mentioned in such contexts, being more of a chemical curiosity than a practical compound.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Structure

Two carbon atoms double-bonded together
Carbon double-bonded to two different atoms

Industrial Use

Widely used in plastic production
Less common in industrial applications

Presence in Nature

Natural plant hormone, aiding in ripening
Not naturally occurring as a hormone

Chemical Properties

Reactive due to double bond
Different reactivity due to structure

Common Applications

Key in making polyethylene, fruit ripening
Found in more complex organic molecules

Ethylene and Ethylidene Definitions


A colorless flammable gas used in chemical synthesis.
Ethylene is essential in the manufacturing of polyethylene plastics.


A less common chemical structure with a carbon atom double-bonded to two different atoms.
Ethylidene groups can be found in certain specialized organic molecules.


Has the chemical formula C2H4.
Ethylene's simple structure makes it a versatile compound in organic chemistry.


Part of more complex organic compounds.
Ethylidene is sometimes encountered in advanced organic chemistry synthesis.


A hydrocarbon with a carbon-carbon double bond.
The double bond in ethylene makes it highly reactive in polymerization reactions.


Not widely used in industrial applications like ethylene.
Ethylidene, due to its structure, is not a major player in plastic manufacturing.


Used in the production of various solvents and chemicals.
Ethylene is a starting material for producing ethylene oxide.


Has different chemical properties due to its unique bonding.
Ethylidene's reactivity differs from ethylene because of its structural distinctions.


Acts as a plant hormone to accelerate ripening.
Ethylene gas is used commercially to ripen bananas quickly.


Rarely mentioned outside specialized chemical contexts.
Ethylidene is not as well-known as ethylene in general chemistry.


A colorless flammable gas, C2H4, derived from natural gas and petroleum and also occurring as a natural plant hormone, used as a source of many organic compounds, in welding and cutting metals, to ripen citrus fruits, and as an anesthetic. Also called ethene.


The divalent radical CH3-CH= formally obtained by removing two hydrogen atoms from the same carbon atom of ethane


(organic compound) The common name for the organic chemical compound ethene. The simplest alkene, a colorless gaseous (at room temperature and pressure) hydrocarbon with the chemical formula C2H4.


An unsymmetrical, divalent, hydrocarbon radical, C2H4 metameric with ethylene but written thus, CH3.CH= to distinguish it from the symmetrical ethylene, CH2=CH2. Its compounds are derived from aldehyde. Formerly called also ethidene.


(organic chemistry) The divalent radical derived from ethane.


A colorless, gaseous hydrocarbon, C2H4, forming an important ingredient of illuminating gas, and also obtained by the action of concentrated sulphuric acid in alcohol. It is an unsaturated compound and combines directly with chlorine and bromine to form oily liquids (Dutch liquid), - hence called olefiant gas. Called also ethene, elayl, and formerly, bicarbureted hydrogen.


A flammable colorless gaseous alkene; obtained from petroleum and natural gas and used in manufacturing many other chemicals; sometimes used as an anesthetic


What makes ethylene important in industry?

Its reactivity and role in producing polyethylene and other chemicals make it vital.

Is ethylidene used in agriculture?

No, it does not have significant agricultural applications like ethylene.

Where is ethylidene typically found?

Ethylidene is found in more complex organic molecules and specialized chemistry applications.

What is ethylene commonly used for?

Ethylene is primarily used in the production of plastics and as a plant ripening agent.

How is ethylene produced commercially?

It's mainly produced through steam cracking of hydrocarbons like ethane and propane.

Can ethylene be found in nature?

Yes, it naturally occurs as a plant hormone that aids in fruit ripening.

Does ethylidene have any role in plastic production?

Unlike ethylene, ethylidene is not commonly used in plastic manufacturing.

What type of chemical is ethylidene classified as?

Ethylidene is a type of organic compound with a specific double-bond structure.

Does ethylidene play a role in pharmaceuticals?

It can be involved in the synthesis of certain specialized pharmaceuticals.

How is ethylidene stability compared to ethylene?

Ethylidene's stability varies based on its incorporation into other molecules.

What are the safety concerns with ethylene?

Being flammable, ethylene requires careful handling and storage.

Is ethylidene a gas like ethylene?

Ethylidene is typically not found as a standalone gas; it's part of larger molecules.

Is ethylidene a common topic in basic chemistry education?

It's less commonly discussed than ethylene, usually appearing in advanced organic chemistry.

Can ethylene be used in food production?

Yes, particularly in artificially ripening fruits.

How does the reactivity of ethylidene compare to ethylene?

Ethylidene's reactivity is different due to its distinct structural bonding.

Can ethylene be used as a solvent?

Ethylene itself is not a solvent, but it's used to produce solvents like ethylene glycol.

Are ethylene and ethylidene related structurally?

They share a carbon backbone, but differ significantly in bonding and reactivity.

What type of bond is crucial in ethylene's reactivity?

The carbon-carbon double bond is key to ethylene's chemical reactivity.

Are there environmental concerns with ethylene?

Ethylene's production and use can have environmental impacts, like contributing to greenhouse gases.

Is ethylene naturally occurring in all plants?

Many, but not all, plants produce ethylene as part of their growth and ripening processes.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons