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water gas

water gas, colorless poisonous gas that burns with an intensely hot, bluish (nearly colorless) flame. The gas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen with very small amounts of other gases, e.g., carbon dioxide, and is almost entirely combustible as a result. Water gas is so named because of the use of water (steam) in its preparation. This process involves treating white-hot hard coal or coke with a blast of steam; carbon monoxide and hydrogen are formed. The gas is manufactured in vast quantities for commercial use. It is of much importance in the preparation of hydrogen and as a fuel in the making of steel and in other industrial processes, e.g., the Fischer-Tropsch process.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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