Acetylene is a colorless and extremely flammable gas at standard temperature and pressure with a garlic-like odor. Acetylene can violently decompose if the pressure of the gas exceeds 15 psi in its free state, so it is shipped and stored dissolved in acetone. The majority of acetylene's chemical energy is contained in the carbon-carbon triple bond.
Calcium carbonate (limestone) and coal are the principal raw materials for acetylene manufacture. The calcium carbonate is first converted into calcium oxide and the coal into coke, and then the two are reacted with each other to form calcium carbide. Calcium carbide and water are then reacted by several methods to produce acetylene. Acetylene can also be manufactured by a process employing the partial combustion of methane with oxygen and by the thermal or arc cracking of hydrocarbons.
Approximately 80 percent of the acetylene produced annually in the United States in used in chemical synthesis. The remaining 20 percent is used primarily for oxyacetylene welding and cutting. Combustion with oxygen produces a flame of over 3300 °C, releasing 11,800 J/g.