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Manufacture, Physical and Chemical Properties, Uses - Ethanol | 10th Science : Chapter 11 : Carbon and its Compounds

Chapter: 10th Science : Chapter 11 : Carbon and its Compounds


Ethanol is commonly known as alcohol. All alcoholic beverages and some cough syrups contain ethanol.


Ethanol is commonly known as alcohol. All alcoholic beverages and some cough syrups contain ethanol. Its molecular formula is C2H5OH. Its structural formula is


1. Manufacture of ethanol

Ethanol is manufactured in industries by the fermentation of molasses, which is a by -product obtained during the manufacture of sugar from sugarcane. Molasses is a dark coloured syrupy liquid left after the crystallization of sugar from the concentrated sugarcane juice. Molasses contain about 30% of sucrose, which cannot be separated by crystallization. It is converted into ethanol by the following steps:

(i) Dilution of molasses

Molasses is first diluted with water to bring down the concentration of sugar to about 8 to 10 percent.

(ii) Addition of Nitrogen source

Molasses usually contains enough nitrogenous matter to act as food for yeast during the fermentation process. If the nitrogen content of the molasses is poor, it may be fortified by the addition of ammonium sulphate or ammonium phosphate.

(iii) Addition of Yeast

The solution obtained in step (ii) is collected in large ‘fermentation tanks’ and yeast is added to it. The mixture is kept at about 303K for a few days. During this period, the enzymes invertase and zymase present in yeast, bring about the conversion of sucrose into ethanol.

The fermented liquid is technically called wash.

(iv) Distillation of 'Wash'

The fermented liquid (i.e. wash), containing 15 to 18 percent alcohol, is now subjected to fractional distillation. The main fraction drawn is an aqueous solution of ethanol which contains 95.5% of ethanol and 4.5% of water. This is called rectified spirit. This mixture is then refluxed over quicklime for about 5 to 6 hours and then allowed to stand for 12 hours. On distillation of this mixture, pure alcohol (100%) is obtained. This is called absolute alcohol.


2. Physical properties

i) Ethanol is a colourless liquid, having a pleasant smell and a burning taste.

ii) It is a volatile liquid. Its boiling point is 780 C (351K), which is much higher than that of its corresponding alkane, i.e. ethane (Boiling Point = 184 K).

iii) It is completely miscible with water in all proportions.


3. Chemical Properties

(i) Dehydration (Loss of water)

When ethanol is heated with con H2SO4 at 443K, it loses a water molecule i.e. dehydrated to form ethene.

(ii) Reaction with sodium:

Ethanol reacts with sodium metal to form sodium ethoxide and hydrogen gas.

2C2H5OH + 2Na → 2C2H5ONa + H2 sodium ethoxide

(iii) Oxidation:

Ethanol is oxidized to ethanoic acid with alkaline KMnO4 or acidified K2Cr2O7

During this reaction, the orange colour of K2Cr2O7 changes to green. Therefore, this reaction can be used for the identification of alcohols.

(iv) Esterification:

The reaction of an alcohol with a carboxylic acid gives a compound having fruity odour. This compound is called an ester and the reaction is called esterification. Ethanol reacts with ethanoic acid in the presence of conc. H2SO4 to form ethyl ethanoate, an ester.

(v) Dehydrogenation:

When the vapour of ethanol is passed over heated copper, used as a catalyst at 573 K, it is dehydrogenated to acetaldehyde.

(vi) Combustion:

Ethanol is highly inflammable liquid. It burns with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and water


4. Uses of ethanol

Ethanol is used

in medical wipes, as an antiseptic.

as an anti-freeze in automobile radiators.

for effectively killing micro organisms like bacteria, fungi, etc., by including it in many hand sanitizers.

as an antiseptic to sterilize wounds in hospitals.

as a solvent for drugs, oils, fats, perfumes, dyes, etc.

in the preparation of methylated spirit (mixture of 95% of ethanol and 5% of methanol) rectified spirit (mixture of 95.5% of ethanol and 4.5% of water), power alcohol (mixture of petrol and ethanol) and denatured spirit (ethanol mixed with pyridine).

to enhance the flavour of food extracts, for example vanilla extract; a common food flavour, which is made by processing vanilla beans in a solution of ethanol and water.


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