Difference Between Ethyl Alcohol and Isopropyl Alcohol

Ethyl Alcohol vs Isopropyl Alcohol | Ethanol vs 2-Propanol

Ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are categorized under the alcohol group, since they have a –OH group. These are the smaller alcohols in the series with two or three carbons. The OH group is attached to a sp3 hybrized carbon. Both are polar liquids and have the capability to form hydrogen bonds. Therefore, both have somewhat similar physical and chemical properties.

Ethyl alcohol

Ethyl alcohol is commonly known as ethanol. Ethanol is a simple alcohol with the molecular formula of C2H5OH. It is a clear, colorless liquid with a characteristic odor. Furthermore, ethanol is a flammable liquid. Melting point of ethanol is -114.1 oC, and the boiling point is 78.5 oC. Ethanol is polar due to the electronegativity difference between the oxygen and hydrogen in the –OH group. Also, due to –OH group, it can form hydrogen bonds.

Ethyl alcohol is used as a beverage. According to the ethanol percentage, there are different types of beverages such as wine, beer, whiskey, brandy, arrack, etc. Ethanol can be easily obtained by the sugar fermentation process using zymase enzyme. This enzyme naturally presents in yeast, so in the anaerobic respiration, yeast can produce ethanol. Ethanol is toxic to the body, and it is converted to acetaldehyde in the liver, which is also toxic. Other than as beverage, ethanol can be used as an antiseptic to clean surfaces from microorganisms. In addition, it is mainly used as a fuel and a fuel additive in vehicles. Ethanol is miscible with water, and it serves as a good solvent.

Isopropyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol, which is also known as 2-propanol, has the same molecular formula as propanol. The molecular weight of it is around 60 g mol-1. The molecular formula is C3H8O. Hence, isopropyl alcohol is an isomer of propanol. The hydroxyl group of this molecule is attached to the second carbon atom in the chain. Therefore, this is a secondary alcohol. Melting point of isopropyl alcohol is -88 oC, and the boiling point is 83 oC. It is miscible with water and stable under normal conditions. This is a colorless, clear, flammable liquid. Since this is a secondary alcohol, it undergoes all the reactions typical to a secondary alcohol. It oxidizes violently to produce acetone. This alcohol is used as a solvent, and used in pharmaceuticals, household products, and personal care products, also used to make other chemicals.


What is the difference between Ethyl Alcohol and Isopropyl Alcohol?

• Ethyl alcohol has two carbons, and isopropyl alcohol has three carbons.

• In ethyl alcohol nomenclature, the carbon with – OH group gets number one. In isopropyl nomenclature, the carbon with -OH group gets number two.

• Ethyl alcohol is a primary alcohol and isopropyl alcohol is a secondary alcohol. When isopropyl alcohol is oxidized, acetone is produced. However, from ethyl alcohol oxidation an aldehyde is produced.

• Isopropyl is less soluble in salted water. Therefore, it can be separated by adding inorganic salts like sodium chloride to an aqueous solution, but ethyl alcohol cannot be separated like this.

• Ethyl alcohol is suitable for drinking, but isopropyl alcohol is not. Isopropyl alcohol consumption can be toxic.