Properties and Reactions of Ethanol

What is Ethanol?

It is a plant fermentation byproduct which is natural and it can also be produced through the hydration of ethylene.

Properties of Ethanol:

At room temperature Ethanol is always a liquid, and it has a melting point of 156K and a boiling point of 351 K. It is one of the most active ingredients of all the alcoholic drinks. It is also used in making many medicines such as cough syrups, tonics as well as tincture iodine as it is a very good solvent. Any proportion of ethanol is properly soluble in water. Furthermore, consumption of even a small quantity of pure ethanol is lethal. Consumption of alcohol for a long period causes adverse health effects.

Reactions involved with Ethanol:

Reaction with sodium: When ethanol reacts with sodium it gives hydrogen gas and sodium ethoxide as the final product.

\(2Na~ +~ 2CH_3CH_2OH~ \rightarrow ~2CH_3CH_2O^-Na^+~ +~ H_2\)

Reaction with unsaturated hydrocarbons: When ethanol is heated at 443 K in presence of excess conc. sulphuric acid then alkene is obtained.

\(CH_3CH_2OH~ \underrightarrow{Conc.~H_2SO_4} ~CH_2=CH_2~ +~ H_2O\)

In the above reaction, water is removed by using a dehydrating agent which is sulphuric acid.

Uses Of Ethanol:

  • In cosmetics and beauty products industry, it is a common ingredient when it comes lotions as preservatives for helping the skin.

  • It is used in paints as preservatives because it is an effective solvent and also used in cleansing products for preventing breach of organisms

  • It is used as colour additive and is also used for giving an enhanced flavour

  • It is used in gasoline for preventing knocking of engines and maintenance of drivability.

How does living beings get affected by alcohols:

The metabolic processes slow down after large quantity of ethanol is consumed. It also depresses the central nervous system. This finally results in lowering of coordination, causes drowsiness etc. Just like ethanol when methanol is taken in a small quantity it can lead to death. When methanol reaches the liver it oxidizes to methanal. Methanal rapidly reacts with the cells of the human body and it results in causing coagulation of protoplasm, in the same way as the eggs are coagulated.

In order to prevent the misuse of ethanol in industries a poisonous substance is added like methanol which makes it unfit for drinking. The addition of methanol to ethanol to make it unfit for drinking is called denaturing.