Ethanol is used for many applications across a variety of industries and also goes by a few different names: alcohol, ethyl alcohol, absolute ethanol, grain alcohol and drinking alcohol.
In this post:
What Is Ethanol?
Ethanol is a volatile, inflammable, clear liquid with a distinctive odour and the chemical formula C2H5OH. It is the main type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, but ethanol in its pure form (such as the ethanol we supply at ReAgent), is not fit for human consumption.
Uses of Ethanol
Ethanol is easily dissolved in water and other organic compounds, which makes it a very useful ingredient in a wide variety of products and range of applications.
Cosmetics & Beauty Products
Ethanol is commonly found in many personal care products for a few reasons:
- As an astringent, it cleans the skin and causes a contraction of skin cells and pores
- As a preservative, it helps ensure ingredients in creams and lotions don’t separate
- It helps hairspray stick to hair
- It kills microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses so it’s often used in hand sanitisers
Ethanol As A Solvent
Ethanol is miscible with water and is a highly effective solvent. It is an ingredient in paints, lacquers and varnish, as well as cleaning products. For the same reason as ethanol is found in hand sanitisers, so it is used in household cleaning products as it kills the bacteria, fungi and viruses that could be harmful to us.
Ethanol has another use as a food additive. It is an ingredient in some food colourings as it can help with consistency of colour. It is also used in some food extracts, such as vanilla extract, to enrich the flavour.
Most fuel contains ethanol, commonly 10 percent. This helps both supply oxygen to the fuel and reduce emissions. Ethanol also increases the octane number in fuel, and this helps to keep your car healthy.
Ethanol’s Use In Rocket Fuel
Ethanol was used as fuel in the first rockets to be developed. For example, the German V-2 which was used extensively during the Second World War used ethanol mixed with water to help reduce the temperature in its combustion chamber. Now that there are more efficient rocket fuels available, ethanol is no longer used.
Uses in Alcohol
Ethanol is used to make alcohol, the beverage – and while ethanol is a type of alcohol, ethanol and alcohol are not the same. Ethanol is the intoxicating ingredient in alcohol. You should not drink pure ethanol – it can cause blindness and even death – and to discourage people from doing this, a bitter flavouring is added which makes ethanol unfit for human consumption.
The blog on chemicals.ie and everything published on it is provided as an information resource only. The blog, its authors and affiliates accept no responsibility for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from following the information provided on this website. We do not recommend using any chemical without first consulting the Material Safety Data Sheet which can be obtained from the manufacturer and following the safety advice and precautions on the product label. If you are in any doubt about health and safety issues please consult the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).