► Chemically, an alcohol is an organic compound in which a hydroxyl functional group is bound to a carbon atom; the total being bound to more hydrogen or carbon atoms.
► There are different kinds of alcohols, each varying in properties, usage and toxicity.
Types of alcohol
► The most well-known type of alcohol is ethanol, used for alcoholic beverages.
► Methanol, the simplest form of alcohol, is used as a solvent fuel.
► There are also propanol and butanol used for industrial purposes.
► There are, of course, more complex forms of alcohol which have diverse industrial uses.
► Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is colourless, volatile and inflammable.
► It has been used since time immemorial for recreational purposes. Ethanol is most popular for its use in alcoholic beverages.
► Ethanol is also used in thermometers, as antiseptic, as fuel and as a solvent for flavourings, perfumes, medicines and colourings.
► Methanol, or methyl alcohol, is the simplest form of alcohol.
► Like ethanol, it is colourless, volatile and inflammable.
► Methanol is popular as fuel, antifreeze (used especially for internal combustion engines), as solvent and in the production of biodiesel.
► As opposed to ethanol, methanol is highly toxic and can cause permanent blindness. In such cases, ethanol can be used as a primary antidote.
Other uses of alcohol
► Alcohol has traditionally been used as a preservative.
► Some alcohols (mostly ethanol and methanol) are especially used as automotive fuel.
► Ethanol (for industrial uses) is often denatured ie mixed with a toxic substance like methanol, to make it undrinkable. It is also sometimes dyed. This is done to meet the strict alcohol regulations in certain countries.
Applications of denatured alcohol
► Denatured alcohol is often used as fuel and solvent. It can also be used as a cleaning aid.
► Certain consumer products, like toothpaste, hand sanitizer and mouthwashes, contain this in small quantities.
► Rubbing alcohol, used primarily for topical application, is also a type of denatured alcohol.
► It's a good disinfectant, germicide and antiseptic. Hence, the name 'surgical spirit'.
► Drinkable alcohol has also been used since prehistoric ages as an anesthetic.
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