Types of Alcohol in Chemistry

The chemical formula for alcohol will include a hydroxyl group.
The chemical formula for alcohol will include a hydroxyl group. (Image: ethanol - alcohol image by Cornelia Pithart from Fotolia.com)

Alcohol is an organic compound that comes in several different forms and structures. For a compound to be considered an alcohol there must be what is known as an oxygen hydrogen group (-OH), or a hydroxyl group, attached. Alcohols are classified based on where the hydroxyl group is attached. The location of the hydroxyl group will also change the properties of the alcohol. Not all alcohols are for drinking purposes and some are dangerous if consumed.


Methyl alcohol, or methanol, has a boiling point of 65 degrees Celsius and is flammable. The formula for methanol is CH3OH. Uses for methanol include obtaining formaldehyde, synthetic gasoline, plastic masses and coloring matter. Methanol is poisonous.


Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is the alcohol that people can drink. The boiling point is 78 degrees Celsius and is also flammable. Ethanol can be used as a fuel on its own or as a mixture. It will burn to give off carbon dioxide and water. Ethanol is also added to perfumes and cosmetics.


Propanol, also known as propyl alcohol, is commonly used as a solvent in everything from printing ink to cosmetics. It is also used in the production of raw materials such as amphetamines. Physical properties include colorless, smelling similar to ethanol with a boiling point of 97.15 degrees Celsius.


Glycerol, which may be known as glycerin, is found today as a byproduct in the manufacturing of soaps and is not poisonous to humans. It can be found in medicines and numerous food products such as ice cream. It is thick in consistency with a sweet taste. Glycerol will turn into a solid once it is cooled.


Butanol, or butyl alcohol, is a clear, flammable liquid with a boiling point of 170 degrees Celsius. It is volatile with a strong alcoholic odor. It is used as a solvent for paints and in the production of all sorts of products ranging from safety glass to brake fluid.

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