Both ethane and ethanol are organic compounds. However, both these differ from each other in several ways. Accordingly, ethane is an alkane, which means it has no double or triple bonds between the carbon atoms; only single bonds. Ethanol is an alcohol, which means it has a hydroxyl group (-OH) as its functional group.
What is Ethane?
Ethane is an organic compound having the chemical formula C2H6. It is an alkane and a simple aliphatic hydrocarbon molecule. Ethane is a hydrocarbon because it consists of only carbon and hydrogen atoms. Ethane is an alkane because it doesn’t have multiple bonds between carbon atoms. Furthermore, carbon atoms of ethane contain the maximum number of hydrogen atoms which those carbon atoms can possess, making it a saturated alkane.
Ethane exists as a colourless and odourless gas at standard temperature and pressure. The molecular weight of this compound is 30 g mol-1. Moreover, each carbon atom in of this molecule has a tetrahedral geometry. Hence, the H-C-H bond angle is 109o. The carbon atoms in ethane are sp3 hybridized atoms. There, an sp3 hybridized orbital from each carbon atom overlaps to make the carbon-carbon sigma bond. The bond between carbon and hydrogen is also a sigma bond, but it is made up by overlapping a sp3 hybridized orbital of the carbon with the only s orbital of the hydrogen atom.
Because of the single sigma bond between carbon atoms, bond rotation in ethane is feasible, and it doesn’t require a large amount of energy. Ethane is a component of natural gas, so we can isolate it from natural gas on a large scale. Furthermore, we can obtain this gaseous compound as a by-product in petroleum refining.
What is Ethanol?
Ethanol is simple alcohol with the molecular formula of C2H5OH. It is a clear, colourless liquid with a characteristic odour. Furthermore, it exists a flammable liquid at standard temperature and pressure. The melting point of this alcohol is -114.1 oC, and the boiling point is 78.5 oC. Apart from that, ethanol is polar due to the electronegativity difference between the oxygen and hydrogen in the –OH group. Also due to –OH group, it has the ability to form hydrogen bonds.
Ethanol is useful as a beverage. According to the ethanol percentage, there are different types of beverages such as wine, beer, whiskey, brandy, arrack, etc. Moreover, we can easily obtain this alcohol via 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 converts into acetaldehyde in the liver, which is also toxic. Other than a beverage it is useful as an antiseptic to clean surfaces from microorganisms. Mainly, we can use it as a fuel and a fuel additive in vehicles. Ethanol is miscible with water, and also it serves as a good solvent.
What is the Difference Between Ethane and Ethanol?
Ethane is an organic compound having the chemical formula C2H6 whereas ethanol is simple alcohol with the molecular formula of C2H5OH. The key difference between ethane and ethanol is that ethane is an alkane whereas ethanol is alcohol. However, both are organic compounds. When considering the chemical composition of two compounds, ethane contains carbon and hydrogen atoms while ethanol has carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Furthermore, the melting and boiling temperatures of ethanol are comparatively higher than that of ethane because ethanol can form strong bonds such as hydrogen bonds between molecules which ethane cannot.
As another important difference between ethane and ethanol, ethane exists as a gaseous compound whereas ethanol exists as a liquid compound at a standard temperature and pressure conditions. The below infographic on difference between ethane and ethanol shows more differences between both.
Summary – Ethane vs Ethanol
Ethane and alcohol are important organic compounds which have uses in industries as well as in many other areas such as medicine, chemical synthesis, etc. The key difference between ethane and ethanol is that ethane is an alkane whereas ethanol is alcohol.
1. “Ethane.” Ohio River – New World Encyclopedia, New World Encyclopedia. Available here
2. Jill A. Richardson DVM, in Small Animal Toxicology (Third Edition), 2013