Carbon Disulphide (synonym es, bisulphide of carbon, sulpho-carbonic acid, sulpho-car-bonic anhydride, sulphur alcohol, carburet of sulphur), a chemical compound of much value in the arts, prepared by burning carbon in an atmosphere of sulphur, or by distilling certain metallic sulphides, as pyrites, sulphide of antimony, and zinc blende, with charcoal. It was discovered by Lampadius at Freiberg in 1796, but was not proposed for practical uses before the year 1844, when Mr. Jesse Fisher of Birmingham, England, suggested its adaptation to the extraction of oils from seeds and fatty bodies. Many tons of it are now annually manufactured, and it is fast becoming one of the most important technical products. Only two articles are involved in the manufacture of carbon disulphide, charcoal and sulphur. When we burn carbon in the air, the product is a gas, which we can with difficulty reduce to a liquid. When carbon is burned in the vapor of sulphur, a compound is obtained which condenses at once to a liquid; the former we write C02, and call carbonic anhydride (carbon dioxide), and the latter CS2, and term sulpho-carbonic anhydride (carbon disulphide). The manufacture of carbon disulphide on a large scale is attended with as much danger from fire and explosion as the refining of petroleum, and it is more injurious to the health of the workmen on account of the poisonous properties of its vapor.
It is usually stored in large tanks of zinc, and protected from evaporation by a layer of water. The process of its manufacture is comparatively simple. Charcoal is heated to redness in a retort, and lumps of sulphur are dropped upon it; the sulphur is at once converted into vapor, and the charcoal burns in it as readily as it would in oxygen; the resulting compound is conducted into a condenser and run into suitable tight reservoirs. The charcoal must be dry, to prevent the formation of hydrogen sulphide and other fetid compounds. After the liquid has been repeatedly rectified by distillation, its odor becomes ethereal and no longer disagreeable. It is then absolutely colorless, and closely resembles alcohol. The percentage composition of carbon disulphide is: carbon, 15-8; sulphur, 84.2. It is a colorless, mobile liquid, of sp. gr. 1.268, boils at 46° C. (114° F.), and under ordinary circumstances does not freeze at - 90° C.; if, however, a current of dry air be passed over its surface, producing rapid evaporation, the temperature sinks to - 18° C, and a portion of the liquid is converted into a snowy solid. It does not combine with water, but mixes in all proportions with alcohol, ether, and similar hydrocarbons.
It readily dissolves resins, oils, caoutchouc, gutta percha, camphor, sulphur, phosphorus, and iodine; is exceedingly inflammable, and burns, with a reddish blue flame, to sulphurous acid and carbonic acid. When mixed with oxygen or atmospheric air it forms an explosive compound. It has a high refracting power = 1.645. - Previous to 1850 the only technical application of carbon disulphide was for vulcanizing India rubber. It is now (1873) manufactured on an immense scale, and its uses are daily extending. It is employed to extract the fat from bones previous to their conversion into bone black; to dissolve the oil from seeds (olive, rape, turnip, cotton, linseed); to remove sulphur and bitumen from a certain class of rocks; to economize the oil contained in wool; to manufacture pure spices; for the purification of paraflfine; for the preparation of liquid fire; in silver plating, a few drops in the bath adding to the brilliancy of the deposit; to destroy rats, weevils, moths, and vermin; as a motive power in engines; for the artificial production of cold; combined with oxygen, to produce an intense photographic light; for prisms of spectroscopes; to clean linen rags which have been used to wipe machinery; for the preservation of meat; to protect hides and furs in warm climates; to prepare sonorous wood and coal; to extract delicate perfumes; in the manufacture of ferrocyanide of potassium; in medicine, both internally and externally, as a diffusible stimulant, accelerating the pulse, augmenting the animal heat, and exciting the secretions of the skin, kidneys, etc.; also for rheumatism and indolent tumors.
It is used both internally and externally. Some of these applications are now conducted on a large scale, especially the chemical method of extracting fat oils by carbon disulphide, instead of the rude fat-boiling process so long in use. Carbon disulphide is frequently present in small quantities in illuminating gas, and imparts to the gas a disagreeable odor. The odor of crude carbon disulphide is intensly disgusting, like that of rotten cabbages. - Carbon monosulphide and carbon sesquisulphide have been prepared by chemists, but very little is known of them, and even their existence is sometimes questioned. - Carbon disulphide combines with the sulphides of the alkaline metals, forming a species of salts, called sulpho-carbonates, such for instance as the sulpho-carbonate of potassium, K2CS3, which contains 3 atoms of sulphur in the place of the 3 atoms of oxygen in the corresponding carbonate, K2C03.