This article is only about the chemistry of the alcohols.
The alcohol used in drinks is ethanol; more information can be found at alcoholic drink and alcoholism.

In chemistry, alcohol is a general term which refers to many organic compounds used in industry and science as reagents, solvents, and fuels. Alcohols are carbohydrates which are made of an alkyl group with one or more hydroxyl (-OH) groups bound to its carbon atoms. Alcohol is colorless, and also transparent.

Names for alcohol

There are two ways of naming alcohols: Common names, and IUPAC names.

  • Common names often are made by taking the name of the alkyl group, and adding the word "alcohol". For example, "methyl alcohol" or "ethyl alcohol".
  • IUPAC names are made by taking the name of the alkane chain, removing the last "e", and adding "ol". Examples of this are "methanol" and "ethanol".

Properties

The hydroxyl (OH) group makes alcohols polar. Alcohols are very weakly acidic. Most alcohols are highly flammable.

Common alcohols

The simplest two alcohols are methanol (or methyl alcohol) and ethanol (or ethyl alcohol), which have the following structures:

IUPAC nomenclature is used when describing more complex alcohols.

In common usage, "alcohol" often means ethanol or "grain alcohol". (See also: alcoholic proof).

Other commonly used alcohols include:

  • Isopropyl alcohol (sec-propyl alcohol, propan-2-ol, 2-propanol) H3C-CH(OH)-CH3, or "rubbing alcohol"
  • ethylene glycol (ethane-1,2-diol) HO-CH2-CH2-OH, which is the main substance in antifreeze
  • glycerin (or glycerol, propane-1,2,3-triol) HO-CH2-CH(OH)-CH2-OH bound in natural fats and oils, which are triglycerides (triacylglycerols)
  • phenol, an alcohol where the hydroxyl group is bound to a benzene ring.



Alcohol for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.