What is the Difference Between Acetone and Alcohol?

What is the Difference Between Acetone and Alcohol?

What is Acetone? 

Acetone, also referred to as propanone, this organic compound is the most basic, smallest ketone ((CH3)2CO). It is colorless, very flammable, and highly volatile, with a characteristic, strong odor.  

Acetone is a naturally occurring compound in the human body. Metabolic processes that break down fat produce it as a byproduct. It is also used in processes that produce sugar and fat and is present in normal urine and blood.  

What is Alcohol? 

Alcohol is the basic name for ethanol—an organic compound made of an ethyl group bonded to a hydroxyl group (C2H6O). This compound is also known as ethyl alcohol, drinking alcohol, or grain alcohol. It is a colorless liquid that is extremely flammable and volatile, with a distinctive odor. 

How Are Acetone and Alcohol Different? 

There are several key distinctions between these two chemical compounds. For one, ethanol is an alcohol, while acetone is a ketone. This means that they have very different chemical compositions. Because of these different compositions, acetone evaporates faster than ethanol—it is a ketone, meaning it has no direct hydrogen bonds. Alcohol, however, has intermolecular hydrogen bonds that are stronger than the intermolecular bonds in propanone. Thus, these stronger bonds take longer to be destroyed, making alcohol a slower evaporator.  

Another key difference is in the way they are made. Alcohol is made via sugar or yeast fermentation, or, primarily, through a process called ethylene hydration. Propanone is a naturally occurring chemical compound that is made of three elements: oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. It may also be made through a reaction of benzene and propylene in the presence of either acid-based or mineral catalysts.  

What Are They Used For?  

Alcohol’s primary use is in alcoholic beverages—it is the active ingredient in these drinks that is responsible for their alcohol content.  

In addition to being used in drinks, alcohol is a strong antibacterial agent. It is used in the medical industry for thorough cleaning of instruments, surgical rooms, machinery, etc. It has also been proven to be effective as an anti-fungal treatment.  

Some other common uses for alcohol include: 

  • medical solvent 
  • fuel and fuel additive for automobiles and rockets 
  • household heating 
  • solvent for botanical extraction 
  • methanol or ethylene glycol overdose antidote 

Acetone, like alcohol, is a very widely used product. In industrial settings, it may be used as a: 

  • solvent 
  • acetylene transporter 
  • chemical intermediate
  • heavy-duty degreaser 
  • thinning agent 

It is also commonly used in medical research facilities or chemical laboratories as a cleaner, a cooling bath, a de-stainer, and a histological research agent.  

In the medical field, it is very often used as an excipient for pharmaceuticals, a solvent or denaturant for certain drugs, an anticonvulsant medication, a dermatological peel, and a skin defatting compound.  

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