29 Oct

Alcohols are organic compounds that contain carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Each of them has an -OH functional group that gives it its special properties, for example ethanol,

Ethanol is the best known alcohol and is the only alcohol that can be used in making alcoholics drinks.

The other alcohols are far more poisonous than ethanol. Methanol is broken down in the body to the highly poisonous formaldehyde, which cause blindness or death.

The production of ethanol

Ethanol is commercially produced using a process called ‘fermentation’. Many other alcohols can be made this way, but are more likely to be produced by synthetic routes – from natural gas, oil or coal.

Fermentation is the process in which yeast breaks down sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast are tiny single-celled fungi that contain special enzymes responsible for this reaction.

The word equation for this process is:

Glucose + yeast —–> alcohol + carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide gas bubbles out of the fermenting solution into the air leaving a mixture of ethanol and water.

Starchy foods such as malt, rice, barley and potatoes can be converted into ethanol through fermentation process.

The alcohol obtained through fermentation is purified by distillation.

This process is made possible because there is a difference between the boiling point of ethanol and water.


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