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Difference Between Ethanol and Methanol

ethanol-methanolEthanol vs Methanol

Sometimes things that look so similar are actually quite different. This is the case with ethanol and methanol. These two substances not only sound similar, but if you put them in two separate glasses they would also look the same. However, if you did anything else with them, or even came too close to the open glasses, you would soon see that there are some very important differences between ethanol and methanol and that mistaking one for the other can be a fatal mistake.

Physical Appearance of Ethanol and Methanol
Ethanol ‘“ is a colorless liquid that is extremely volatile. It has a strong, burning odor and will burn as a bright blue flame.
Methanol ‘“ too is a colorless liquid that is also extremely volatile. Its odor is distinctive and it burns as a bright white flame.

Physical Effects of Ethanol and Methanol
Ethanol ‘“ is a primary ingredient in both fermented and distilled alcoholic beverages. If you ingest ethanol, you will begin to feel intoxicated. Only after a large dose will you feel ill, vomit, or develop alcohol poisoning.
Methanol ‘“ should never be ingested, inhaled, or come in contact with your skin. Even a small dose, less than half a teaspoon, can cause blindness and less than four ounces is consistently fatal.

Uses of Ethanol and Methanol
Ethanol ‘“ is used to create the intoxicating effects found in alcoholic beverages. It is also used as an alternate form of fuel and is most often created from sugarcane or corn. In the United States, certain cars are designed to take 85% ethanol fuels. It is also found in rocket fuels. It has antiseptic properties and is found in anti-bacterial wipes and hand gels. It is also the base of many paints and perfumes because it is a good solvent.
Methanol ‘“ is mostly used to create other chemicals such as formaldehyde. It is also a desirable fuel for race and stunt cars because it is less flammable than gasoline and can be put out with water. Small quantities are used to produce denatured alcohol and it can also be found as a solvent.

Ethanol’s and Methanol’s Reactions with Water
Ethanol ‘“ is miscible in water, which means that the two substances easily combine to make a homogenous solution.
Methanol ‘“ is soluble in water, which means that it will break down in the presence of water.

1.Ethanol and methanol are liquids that sound the same and have many of the same physical characteristics including look and smell.
2.Ethanol is safe to consume in moderate amounts and is found in all alcoholic beverages whereas methanol should be avoided at all costs as even a small dose can cause blindness or death.
3.Ethanol is used for alcohol, cleaning, solvents, and fuels, and while methanol is also found in solvents and fuels, it is primarily used to make other chemicals.

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  1. can ethanol be used in a car in place of methanol???

    • most cars cannot use ethanol OR methanol exclusively yet, the seals would dry out and start leaking. Some GM vehicles are E85 ready, this was clipped from wikipedia;
      There are a few major differences between FFVs and non-FFVs. One is the elimination of bare magnesium, aluminum, and rubber parts in the fuel system. Another is that fuel pumps must be capable of operating with electrically conductive ethanol instead of non-conducting dielectric gasoline fuel. Fuel injection control systems have a wider range of pulse widths to inject approximately 40% more fuel. Stainless steel fuel lines, sometimes lined with plastic, and stainless steel fuel tanks in place of terne fuel tanks are used. In some cases, FFVs use acid-neutralizing motor oil. For vehicles with fuel-tank mounted fuel pumps, additional differences to prevent arcing, as well as flame arrestors positioned in the tank’s fill pipe, are also sometimes used.

  2. Thank you for the post. What is the process for separating methanol from ethanol?

  3. thanx i got an A on the sciense paper

  4. I want to know if we burn both of them which makes more heat & long lasting in a can . is eatanol burn same like methanol or some difference is there.


  5. Muy buen aporte. Desde aqui en Venezuela, nuestro maíz nacional puede ser utilizado para obtener C2H5O. El CH4O se puede obtener al principio del proceso de destilación, por eso es bastante popular, excelente artículo y que siga haciendo grandes aportes como éste.

  6. I am writing a paper on methanol. If one was to get methanol in the eyes, what would be the correct way to take care of it before one goes blind. Would it be worse to apply water to wash it out? Thank you for your input.

  7. Well should wear some goggles so you dont get shit in your eyes in the first place.then you would not have to put vinegar in your eye ya amateur.

  8. I gonna be use either methanol or ethanol solvent to determine the phyto-chemicals (active constituents present in the plants). Which one is a good solvent for plant extraction? methanol or ethanol? why?

  9. Very informative article.

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