Chemical Properties and Common Uses of Ethyl Alcohol

Common Industrial Uses of Ethyl Alcohol

  • As a solvent in the production of varnishes, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals
  • As a fuel additive to increase octane levels in gasoline
  • As a disinfectant and antiseptic in the healthcare industry
  • As a cleaning agent in the electronics industry

Production of Ethyl Alcohol

Ethyl alcohol is produced through the fermentation of sugars by yeast or bacteria. The most common source of sugar is corn, but other sources such as wheat, barley, and potatoes can also be used. The fermentation process involves converting the sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide. The resulting mixture is then distilled to increase the concentration of ethanol.

Discovery and Commercial Availability of Ethyl Alcohol

Ethyl alcohol has been known to humans for thousands of years, with evidence of its use dating back to ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and Greeks. However, it was not until the 19th century that ethyl alcohol was first produced on a large scale for commercial use. The French chemist Antoine Lavoisier is credited with discovering the chemical composition of ethanol in 1789, and the German chemist Justus von Liebig developed a method for producing ethanol from potatoes in 1837.

Products that Include Ethyl Alcohol

  • Beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages
  • Perfumes and fragrances
  • Hand sanitizers and disinfectants
  • Paints and varnishes


Ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, is a clear, colorless liquid that is commonly used as a solvent, fuel, and recreational substance. It is a type of alcohol that is produced by the fermentation of sugars and carbohydrates, and is found in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits.

Technical Properties

Ethyl alcohol has several notable technical properties that make it a valuable substance for a variety of industries. It has a high vapor pressure and is highly flammable, making it an effective fuel for engines and heating systems. It also has a low freezing point, making it useful in antifreeze solutions. Ethyl alcohol is also a good solvent, able to dissolve many organic compounds, and is used in the production of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and cleaning products.

Chemical Formula

The chemical formula for ethyl alcohol is C2H5OH. This means that each molecule of ethyl alcohol contains two carbon atoms, six hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom. The molecular weight of ethyl alcohol is 46.07 g/mol.

Key Properties

  • Boiling point: 78.37°C (173.07°F)
  • Density: 0.789 g/cm³
  • Melting point: -114.1°C (-173.4°F)
  • Solubility in water: miscible

Ethyl alcohol is a versatile chemical with a wide range of applications. Its technical properties make it useful in many industries, from fuel and energy to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Its chemical formula, C2H5OH, and key properties, such as boiling point and density, make it a valuable substance for scientists and engineers to work with and study.