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Some Commercially Important Alcohols

Last Updated : 16 Feb, 2022
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Alcohols are chemical compounds that include one or more hydroxyl groups (–OH) linked to an aliphatic carbon atom. ROH is the general formula for alcohol. Based on the attachment of hydroxyl to the carbon, alcohols are classed as aliphatic or aromatic. Aliphatic alcohols are those in which the hydroxyl group (–OH) is linked to the alkyl group. Methanol (CH3OH), ethanol (C2H5OH), propanol (C3H7OH), and other alcohols are examples. Aromatic alcohols are alcohols that include the hydroxyl group –OH in the side chain of an aromatic hydrocarbon (benzylic alcohol). Benzyl alcohol is an example (C6H5CH2OH).

Commercial alcohol is alcohol that is utilised for commercial purposes. Methanol (methyl alcohol, CH3OH) and ethanol are the most commonly used commercial alcohols (ethyl alcohol, C2H5OH).

Some Commercially Important Alcohols

Methanol and ethanol are the most basic members of the primary alcohol family, with numerous applications in the fuel industry.


Methanol is also known as methyl alcohol. It is also called as wood spirit or wood alcohol since it was first made via destructive distillation of wood. It has the chemical formula CH3OH.

Uses of Methanol

  1. As a paint and varnish solvent.
  2. As an antifreeze for car radiators.
  3. In the production of formaldehyde, which is commonly utilised in the production of plastics.
  4. To denaturize ethyl alcohol, that is, to render it unfit for human consumption. Methylated spirit is another name for denatured alcohol.
  5. As a vehicle fuel
  6. In the production of fragrances, pharmaceuticals, and varnishes.


Ethanol is also known as ethyl alcohol. It is the most important member of the alcohol family and is simply referred to as alcohol. Because it may be made from starch grains, it is also known as grain alcohol. It has the chemical formula C2H5OH

Uses of Ethanol

  1. As an industrial solvent for paints, lacquers, dyes, varnishes, costumes, perfumes, and other similar products.
  2. Ethanol, with a melting point of -114.1°C, is utilised as a component in cooling baths in a number of laboratories. It’s also the active fluid in a lot of spirit thermometers.
  3. Ethanol is the main constituent in many alcoholic beverages that are ingested orally for recreational purposes. It serves as a psychoactive drug in humans, lowering anxiety and inducing euphoria. However, it also inhibits cognitive and motor skills and serves as a depressive of the central nervous system (CNS).
  4. In the production of ether, chloroform, iodoform, acetaldehyde, acetic acid, and other chemicals.
  5. Thermometers and spirit levels are examples of scientific instruments.
  6. Ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) is utilised in many hand sanitizers and medical wipes due to its antibacterial and antifungal qualities.
  7. In automobile radiators as an antifreeze.
  8. As biological specimen preservation.
  9. Ethanol is commonly utilised as a gasoline additive and engine fuel. Some types of gasoline have been found to contain up to 25% ethanol. In some bipropellant rockets, this compound has also been utilised as rocket fuel. Ethanol is thought to minimise carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions when used as a fuel. Ethanol is utilised in direct-ethanol fuel cells because it is abundantly available, has minimal toxicity, and is inexpensive (or DEFCs). Commercially available fuel cells, on the other hand, typically use methanol, hydrogen, or natural gas
  10. In hospitals, an antiseptic-like tincture of iodine (2–7 percent iodine dissolved in ethanol and water mixture) is utilised.
  11. In the production of pharmaceuticals, flavouring extracts, fragrances, and so on.
  12. Some analgesics and mouthwashes employ ethanol as a solvent (in concentrations ranging from 1% to 25%).

Industrial Alcohols

Ethanol is one of the most significant basic ingredients and is widely used. It is available in various purity grades for a variety of applications. Among them are:

  1. Absolute alcohol: It is made entirely of ethanol. Carbohydrate fermentation produces ethanol, which contains some water. The fractional distillation of an aqueous ethanol solution yields a constant boiling azeotropic mixture containing 95 percent ethanol. To obtain 100 percent ethanol, a little amount of benzene is combined with an azeotropic mixture and distilled. At 351.1K, pure ethanol is distilled as the final fraction. This is converted into various percentages of ethanol, which is then utilised for a variety of purposes such as alcoholic beverages, fuel, solvents, and so on.
  2. Alcoholic beverages: Alcohol is the primary intoxicating agent in liquors used for drinking. These are also referred to as alcoholic beverages. They are made from various ingredients and include varying concentrations of alcohol. Beverages are classified into two types: distilled and undistilled. Wine is a type of undistilled beverage made from grapes and other fruit juices. Distilled liquors have higher alcoholic content and are known by numerous grade names such as whiskey, rum, brandy, gin, and so on.
  3. Methylated spirit or Denatured alcohol: It contains 95% ethyl alcohol. To prevent the misuse of alcohol intended for industry, it was rendered unfit for drinking by combining ethanol with a little amount of methanol, some copper sulphate to give it the colour, and pyridine to give it a bad odour. The process is known as the denaturation of alcohol, and the resulting alcohol is known as methylated spirit or denatured alcohol. It is relatively inexpensive and can be utilised for non-drinking purposes, particularly in factories. Because methylated spirit is flammable, it can be used as a fuel in lamps and stoves. Glass cleaners contain the methylated spirit.
  4. Power alcohol: It is a blend of ethanol and gasoline (20% ethanol, 80% gasoline). Because alcohol does not combine with gasoline, a little amount of a solvent such as benzene or ether is added. Petrol is generally in short supply due to the scarcity of natural resources. Because we can produce enormous volumes of alcohol from molasses, the use of power alcohol as a substitute for gasoline has promised a bright future in India.

Harmful Effects of Drinking Alcohol

When drunk in significant amounts, ethanol depresses the central nervous system by delaying metabolic processes. This can lead to a loss of coordination, mental disorientation, and tiredness. Drunkenness is caused by the consumption of modest amounts of weak ethanol, and a person may feel comfortable after taking alcohol but loses his sense of judgement. Muscular coordination may be severely compromised as well. In addition, long-term alcohol consumption causes major health concerns.

Methanol consumption is extremely dangerous and may result in death. It is metabolised to methane in the liver and rapidly interacts with cell components, causing protoplasm coagulation. It also has an effect on the visual nerve, which can lead to blindness.

Sample Questions

Question 1: What are the most common applications for methanol?


Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, is a very versatile molecule that is widely utilised in manufacturing and is present in our daily life. Its ability as an energy transporter has made it more desirable as a fuel for manufacturing and for generating electricity.

Question 2: What is the difference between methanol and ethanol?


Ethanol, commonly known as ethyl alcohol, is formed when the molecular structure of two carbon atoms breaks down. Methanol, often known as methyl alcohol, contains only one carbon atom.

Question 3: What are the two uses of ethanol?


It’s used as a solvent, in the production of other organic chemicals, and as an additive to gasoline (a mixture known as gasohol). Ethanol is a significant industrial chemical. Ethanol is the intoxicating component in many alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and distilled spirits.

Question 4: What’s the difference between methanol and isopropyl alcohol?


Methanol is a laboratory solvent, fuel additive, and antifreeze. As with most kinds of alcohol, it is easily absorbed via the skin. Methanol, on the other hand, is extremely hazardous and can harm the nervous system and organs. Isopropyl alcohol is a type of rubbing alcohol that is found in several hand sanitizers.

Question 5: What alcohol is best for disinfecting?


Isopropyl alcohol kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses quickly, especially in solutions containing 60-90 percent alcohol and 10-40 percent filtered water. When alcohol concentrations fall below 50%, the disinfection gain falls precipitously.

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