Cumene hydroperoxide explosion

H. E. Hood
H. E. Hood Inc., Wilmington, Del.

Chemical & Engineering News (18 Oct 1993) Vol. 71, No. 42, pp. 4.


This relates to a letter about a cumene hydroperoxide (CHP) explosion (C&EN, May 31, page 4). I agree in general with the author and offer an additional comment. As noted in Manuel A. Francisco 's letter, the published rates for the thermal decomposition of CHP are a poor guide to the thermal behavior of concentrated CHP. These first-order rates are obtained from dilute solutions in hydrocarbons, where the radicals produced react with the solvent. In concentrated CHP, some of the radicals react with the CHP itself and the decomposition is clearly autocatalytic (the rate under isothermal conditions increases with time). Any strongly exothermic reaction has the potential to run away from self-heating. Only a few, like the decomposition of concentrated CHP, get additional acceleration from autocatalysis.

Note: Bretherick, 4th Ed., 1990 (pages 785-786) gives 11 references to the reactions of this compound.

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