Definition - What does Ethanol mean?

Ethanol is a simple hydrocarbon molecule with two carbon atoms and an alcohol functional group (-OH). Its chemical formula is CH3CH2OH (C2H6O) and it is a volatile and flammable liquid. Ethanol is miscible with water and is responsible for the intoxicating properties of alcoholic beverages.

Beyond recreational consumption, ethanol is a widely used solvent in chemical synthesis as well as a synthetic feedstock for chemicals such as diethyl ether, acetic acid, ethyl halides, ethyl esters and ethyl amines. Ethanol also has antiseptic properties, which makes it a common active ingredient in sanitizers. Ethanol can also be used as a fuel source.

Corrosionpedia explains Ethanol

Ethanol is a colorless organic liquid. By containing both a hydrophobic ethyl (-CH2CH3) side chain and polar alcohol (-OH) functional group, ethanol mixes readily with all common non-polar and polar organic solvents and water.

Ethanol has the following physical properties:

  • Molecular mass: 46.07 g/mol
  • Density (at 20°C): 0.7893 g/cm3
  • Melting point: -114°C (-173°F)
  • Boiling point: 78°C (172°F)

Many strains of yeast produce ethanol naturally as the byproduct of a metabolic process called fermentation. Consumable alcoholic products are produced in this way and this method is also used for ethanol production in other industries. Alternatively, ethanol can be produced from petrochemical feedstocks by hydrating ethylene.

In chemical reactions, ethanol undergoes standard alcohol reactivity such as esterification, dehydration, combustion, acid-base chemistry, halogenation and oxidation, depending on the chemical conditions. Taking advantage of its energy yielding combustive properties, ethanol finds many applications in the energy industry as a fuel source.

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