Methanol Versus Ethanol

Methanol Versus Ethanol

Today, we are here to discuss Methanol Versus Ethanol, what makes them different? What makes them the same? Let’s break down all the different pieces of these many questions!

What is Methanol?

Methanol is a type of alcohol used in fuels, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and a plethora of other industrial and commercial products. It is also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, and it is formed by a methyl group linked to a hydroxyl group (CH3OH).

What is Ethanol?

Ethanol is simple alcohol used in drugs, plastics, alcoholic drinks, cosmetics, and a variety of other common commercial items. It may also be referred to as ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, drinking alcohol, or just alcohol. It is formed by an ethyl group bonded to a hydroxyl group (C2H6O).

Methanol Versus Ethanol: How Are They Similar?

Both alcohols are colorless liquids, so they can easily get confused if not properly labeled. They also are both extremely flammable and volatile and give off a strong, characteristic smell.

Methanol Versus Ethanol: How Are They Different?

These two alcohols have very different chemical properties. The difference in composition between these two types of alcohols is that ethanol has one more carbon atom in its structure. Ethanol has two carbon bonds in its ethyl group, while methanol has only one carbon bond in its methyl group. Ethyl alcohol is less acidic than water, while methyl alcohol is more acidic than water.

In terms of toxicity, methanol is much more dangerous than ethanol. Methyl alcohol can be fatal if too much exposure to vapors or ingestion occurs, while ethyl alcohol is commonly ingested in alcoholic beverages.

How Are They Made?

90% of grain alcohol produced around the world comes from the fermentation of crops, specifically of sugars by yeasts. The other 10% comes from chemical processes like ethylene hydration.

Wood alcohol, on the other hand, is usually produced industrially via the hydrogenation of carbon monoxide (CO) or through a process of reforming natural gas with steam and distilling the product to create pure methanol.

Methanol Versus Ethanol: What Are They Used For?

Both types of alcohol have a multitude of uses. Let’s start with methanol—it can be used for:

  • antifreeze
  • industrial solvent purposes
  • industrial fuel additive
  • wastewater treatment
  • the base for commodity chemicals

There are plenty of other uses for this simple alcohol, but those are among the most common. Ethanol, on the other hand, is usually used for:

  • personal care products like astringents, lotions, hairspray, and hand sanitizer
  • household products like paints, varnish, and cleaning supplies
  • food additives
  • commercial fuel additive
  • medical supplies such as antiseptics and disinfectants
  • solvent uses in organic compound synthesis
  • alcoholic beverages like beer and wine as the intoxicating ingredient

Basically, ethanol is the safer and less toxic of the two alcohols, so it is used in more common items, while methanol is primarily found in industrial settings

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