Alcohols come under the category of organic compounds. Organic compounds mainly consist of carbon and hydrogen atoms or also referred to as hydrocarbons. To these hydrocarbons when other groups have attached the properties of the compound vary depending on the atoms present in the molecule. There are many functional groups like acids, alcohols, ketones, amine, halogen, and so on. Each group is characterized by its unique properties. In this article, we will study alcohol and its importance.
What is alcohol?
Alcohols are considered to be the most commonly occurring organic compounds. Alcohols are the class of organic compounds that are recognized by the presence of one or more hydroxyl groups (−OH) that are joined to the carbon atom present in an alkyl group or hydrocarbon chain. The alcohols can be represented by the general formula CnH2n+1 OH. The nomenclature for alcohol ends with ‘ol’. For instance Methanol, Ethanol.
Types of alcohols
We can broadly classify alcohols based on the number of carbon atoms present in the molecules that are directly attached to the carbon that is bonded with the alcohol group. Alcohol can be categorized into three types based on this
- Primary alcohols: In these types of molecules one carbon atom is directly attached to the carbon that is bonded with the alcohol group. For example Ethanol
- Secondary alcohols: In these types of molecules two carbon atoms are directly attached to the carbon that is bonded with the alcohol group. For example Propane – 2 -ol.
- Tertiary alcohols: In these types of molecules three carbon atoms are directly attached to the carbon that is bonded with the alcohol group. For example 2 methyl propane-2 -ol
Based on the type of alcohol the properties of the compound are determined. The alcohol reactions vary as Why are alcohols the most vital organic compounds?per the structure and type of alcohol present.
Functional groups are the substituent atoms or groups of atoms that are attached to specific molecules. These groups are responsible for specific chemical reactions that undergo between the molecules. The alcohol functional group is denoted by the hydroxyl group -OH. As per the number of hydroxyl groups present in the compound, alcohols can be classified into the following three types as
- Monohydric alcohols: These sets of molecules contain one hydroxyl -OH group. For example, CH3-OH
- Dihydric alcohols: These sets of molecules contain two hydroxyl -OH groups. For example, Glycol.
- Trihydric alcohols: These sets of molecules contain three hydroxyl -OH groups. For example Glycerol.
Reactions of alcohol
Alcohol undergoes many vital reactions such as oxidations, dehydration that play a major role in biological processes as well as the chemical processes in industries. Alcohols undergo oxidation in the presence of an oxidizing agent that yields aldehydes and ketones as products. On further oxidation of these products, we get carboxylic acids. Alcohols when treated with protic acids, undergo dehydration to form alkenes.
Alcohols have a wide variety of applications in our day-to-day activities. Listed below are few applications of alcohol
- Alcohol is used as polishes, pigments, intermediates, dye solutions in paint industries
- Used in the food industry as beverages.
- Used as cleansing agents and antiseptic agents by the doctors.
- Used as fuels in the internal combustion engines.
- Used in air purifiers, perfumes, and room fresheners.
- Used in, pharmaceuticals and in hospitals to sterilize hospital equipment.
Alcohols are the vital organic compounds as it stretches its hands and applications in most of the sectors. Our human body also contains few compounds such as sugar, glucose that contain alcohol groups and helps in biological processes like digestion.