Skip to main content

tetraethyl lead

tetraethyl lead (tĕt´rəĕth´əl), (C2H5)4Pb, viscous, colorless, poisonous liquid. It is an organometallic compound prepared by reacting ethyl chloride with a sodium-lead alloy. When added to gasoline, it improves the combustion characteristics (see octane number). When tetraethyl lead burns in an engine, lead oxide is formed. Ethylene dibromide is usually also added to the gasoline; on burning, the resulting mixture forms products that react with the lead oxide to form lead bromide, a volatile compound that escapes from the engine with other exhausted products. Because the lead bromide is poisonous, lead-free gasolines are required in the United States. An additional reason for lead-free gas is that the lead in the exhaust pipe would poison the catalytic converter that is standard equipment for U.S. cars. Catalytic converters which serve to oxidize unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides contain platinum group metals that are inactivated by lead.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"tetraethyl lead." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 18 Apr. 2019 <>.

"tetraethyl lead." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (April 18, 2019).

"tetraethyl lead." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 18, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.