Types of Alcohols

Alcohol (from the Arabic al-ku?l meaning “distilled”) is the generic name given to those chemical compounds belonging to the functional groups that contain a hydroxyl (-OH) in themselves or referring to their derivatives (According to its chemical nomenclature is replaced by the or of the name of the alkane to which it belongs). It is mostly a flammable and colorless liquid with a very pungent odor, which can result from the distillation of various juices or some carbohydrate fermentation processes.

Classification of alcohols

Due to the fact that it is a compound, it is clear that there will be several types of alcohols that will be used for various purposes, classifying them according to the number of –OH groups present in:

  • Monovalent alcohols or monols

They are those that present a single terminal or intermediate hydroxyl radical. It groups together primary alcohols (when the  -OH  is attached to a primary carbon), secondary (the  OH  is attached to a secondary carbon) and tertiary (the OH molecule  is attached to a tertiary carbon).

There is a subcategorization called polyhydric or polyvalent alcohols since they have several OH groups in the molecule, attached to different carbon atoms, the chemical properties of polyvalent alcohols are the same as those of monovalents. By increasing the number of hydroxyl groups in the molecule, the sweet taste of the compound increases, these being:

  • Divalent or glycols

This type of alcohol is very toxic as its antifreeze properties can severely damage the central nervous system, liver or kidneys if consumed. It is characterized by having two OH hydroxyl groups.

  • Trivalent or glycerols

They are identified because their molecule has three OH hydroxyl groups .  It has a simple structure, resulting in compounds such as glycerin, which helps in the production of soaps due to its participation in saponification.

The types of alcohol are:

  • Ethanol

Commonly called “ethyl alcohol”, it is characterized by being in a liquid state, devoid of color but with a strong taste. This compound is used in the intoxicating beverage industry in deferred volumes and is considered a legally produced drug (its consumption produces alterations in the nervous system and when done compulsively it causes terrible damage to the liver and the body in general, since it can be Very addictive). The representation of its chemical structure corresponds to H 3 C-CH 2 -OH, whose weight is lighter than water; to achieve it is necessaryresorting to too specific distillation processes. Although its main use is in the production of alcoholic beverages, it is also of great importance in other sectors such as the industrial sector, where it performs the function of a powerful solvent, in the same way it has a great participation in the manufacture of cosmetics.


  • Methanol

Known as methyl, it is the simplest derivative of this functional group with the chemical formula
CH3 OH , arising from the catalysis between hydrogen and carbon monoxide and is characterized by having similar ionic bonds to water. Like the other types, this one is also highly flammable and toxic by itself and it is from it that other liquids such as formalin are obtained. It is used as fuel in contact with oxygen and can be mixed with oils to give rise to lubricants used in internal combustion engines.

methanol car engine

  • Propane

Or isopropyl, it is a liquid lighter than water and monovalent bonds. It is required as a cleaner for electrical appliances and a disinfectant thanks to its great volatility.

  • Isopropanol

With characteristics similar to those of its predecessor, isopropanol is mainly included in the production of cosmetics, as a solvent (acetone) combined with disinfectant properties in skin asepsis.

Varnishes products that use acetone

  • Butanol

This compound is equally filmable, soluble in water and very toxic if it is processed by the body or comes into contact, causing skin irritation or numbing of the nervous system, and is the protagonist of the pharmaceutical industry in procedures such as dissolution, within pigmentation or as dehydrating agent. It is obtained through the reaction between triethyl aluminum and ethylene oxide.

  • Octanol

Achieved from the distillation of essential oils through ethers, it is used to produce scents and flavors for perfumery. Its formula is CH 3 (CH 2 ) 7 OH.


Perfume with octanol

  • Endogenous Alcohol

Organic compound product of biochemical reactions in the body with the fermentation of carbohydrates present in the body due to yeasts or bacteria that produces a decrease in the level of acetaldehyde and is detected in the body for diagnoses of poor intestinal absorption and other disorders of the digestive system.

  • Absolute Alcohol

It is the purest due to its almost total lack of water (hence it is called dehydrated). As a result of its purity, it is used as part of some chemical reactions and as an ingredient in numerous medications intended to treat intestinal conditions.

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