How does the ethanol smell come about


Ethanol - Properties and Occurrence

Chemistry describes ethanol as a liquid that is colorless, highly flammable and has a pungent smell. Ethanol is a normal alcohol with the formula C2H5OH. It is derived from the alkane ethane, a saturated hydrocarbon. Its properties make alcohol a solvent that is important in the chemical industry and in drug production.

Production: alcoholic fermentation

Alcoholic fermentation converts sugar into alcohol. Ethanol or alcohol is a product of the fermentation of substances that contain sugar or starch. Yeasts or bacteria are often used for this. In the area of ​​alcoholic luxury foods, for example, must or hops and malt form the basis for the production of wine or beer. The so-called spirits are also created by means of distillation. Small amounts of alcohol can be found in bread, ripe fruit, pickled sauerkraut or kefir.

Chemical synthesis

In addition to alcoholic fermentation, it is possible to obtain ethanol from petroleum. This process is a purely chemical synthesis in which water and ethene form the starting materials and sulfuric acid acts as a catalyst. The industry produces around two million tons of ethanol per year in this way. This synthetic substance is often used as an industrial solvent. The end product contains the same compounds as e.g. bioethanol, there is no chemical difference between the two substances.


The production of bioethanol also makes use of alcoholic fermentation. The basis for this is not grain or fruit, but biomass. Plants use solar energy to produce carbohydrates. These carbohydrates in the biomass (starch or cellulose) are fermented as sugar (glucose) and with the addition of yeast to form ethanol. Bioethanol can therefore be called regenerative. Apart from the production, there is no difference between bioethanol and the ethanol produced in other ways.

Ethanol in everyday life

Alcohol is part of many products that can be found in every household. In deodorants or perfumes, it forms the carrier for the fragrances. It is also part of antifreeze and it is used as fuel. It is also used in cleaning agents and for distillation.

Ethanol as a fuel

Ethanol is used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. Nicolaus August Otto used ethanol in the development of his engine. Subsequent car manufacturers were also convinced that ethanol played a decisive role in propulsion. At the latest with the oil crisis of the 1970s, the idea of ​​becoming independent from oil and finding appropriate alternatives spread. The leading producers are Brazil, where the fuel is made from sugar cane, and the USA, where corn and other grains are mainly grown.

Ethanol in internal combustion engines

Ethanol can be used as a fuel in turbines, fuel cells and internal combustion engines. There are three gasoline mixtures:

  • E5 with 5 percent ethanol and 95 percent gasoline
  • E10 with 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline
  • E85 with 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline

The higher the proportion of ethanol, the cleaner the mixture burns.

Ethanol in power generation with generators

Ethanol generators only differ from other generators in that they use ethanol. Depending on the size of the generator, electricity can be produced for different purposes: be it an outdoor music system or an entire house.

Benefits of ethanol

A generator running on bioethanol produces less carbon dioxide and is therefore cleaner. Bioethanol also costs less than gasoline.

Disadvantages of ethanol

Ethanol is not as easy to obtain as gasoline, for example, because it is not available in every petrol station. This may result in longer distances. It's also not as powerful as gasoline, so more of it is needed to generate electricity.