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A Brief Introduction of Alcohol


Alcohol (derived from an Arabic word al-kuhul) is a term that is used to refer to a group of chemical compounds and is commonly applied to a specific compound ethyl alcohol (also known as ethanol). The Arabic word stands for kohl which is a refined powder of antimony that is usually used as an eye makeup.


The word alcohol originally stands for any fine powder; nonetheless the alchemists of medieval Europe later used the word to refer to the essences that were obtained by the process of distillation, a definition that is still used up to this day. Alcohols are a type of organic (contains carbon) compounds that contain the hydroxyl group, OH, which is attached to one or more carbon atoms.


Alcohols can have 1, 2 or even 3 hydroxyl groups attached to their molecules. Thus, they are classified as monohydric, dihydric and trihydric depending on the number of hydroxyl groups. Ethanol and methanol both belong to monohydric alcohols. Alcohols are further classified according to the number of carbon atoms that are bound to the carbon atom to which the hydroxyl group is also bound as primary (1 carbon atom), secondary (2 carbon atoms) or tertiary (3 carbon atoms).

Even though alcohols are similar to inorganic substances, they are neither alkaline nor acid. Alcohols are natural end products of digestion and metabolism within the cells and are often found in the fluids and tissues of both plants and animals. There are alcohols that can be ingested and some that are for industrial use.




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