What is Ethanol Alcohol?
Alcohol is a distilled product. Ethanol alcohol, sometimes called ethyl or grain alcohol, is a clear substance often made from fermented sugars. It can be used for industrial purposes, such as producing perfumes and explosives. It can also be used for human consumption in products such as medicine or liquor. When this type of alcohol is consumed, it can affect the central nervous system.
Ethanol alcohol has both an odor and a taste. It is a volatile substance, meaning it will quickly evaporate, and it is also flammable. It can be, and often is, mixed with water and other organic substances. Commercial ethanol solutions can commonly be found which contain 95 percent ethanol and 5 percent water. If a person wants to make such a solution into pure ethanol alcohol, there are dehydrating substances that can allow him to do so.
Starches such as potatoes or corn can be used to produce this type of alcohol. To do this, however, the starches must first be broken down into simple sugars. Fermenting sugar for this purpose can be quite complex. The process can involve combining simple sugars, water, yeast, and ammonia.
Ethanol can also be synthetically produced from acetaldehyde or from ethylene. Acetaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance used in the production of chemicals. Ethylene is a plant hormone also used in chemical processes, including some designed to affect the ripening of produce.
All ethanol alcohol is not consumable. Some ethanol is denatured. These products contain poisonous substances that humans should not swallow. A common reason for denaturing alcohol is to avoid excise tax. If alcohol is consumable, such as with alcoholic beverages, then it may be subject to such taxes and other restrictions.
Denatured alcohol is often regarded as a raw product. It is used in the production of other products such as rubber and varnishes. It can also be used as automotive fuel or as an additive for other automotive fuels. When such a product is made from a crop, such as corn or sugarcane, it is commonly referred to as a biofuel.
Even ethanol that can be consumed is still considered toxic to the human body. When a person drinks alcohol, it is absorbed into the blood stream. It is taken to the brain and produces an effect. The body immediately tries to eliminate this foreign substance, and in doing so, the liver produces acetaldehyde.
As the process of producing ethanol alcohol is complex and timely, so is the body’s process for eliminating it. There is a limit as to how much alcohol the body can dispose of within an hour. The more a person’s drinking exceeds this limit, the more others may be able to notice the effects that ethanol alcohol can produce.
@ CHicada- This is interesting news, especially considering the USDA is studying this. This is a good indicator that we may soon see a shift in the source for ethanol gas production in the United States. This could be a viable alternative to corn and sugarcane ethanol production until enough research and development can be done to make cellulosic biomass ethanol production economically competitive. I will be watching the markets closely for indicators of success in sweet potato ethanol. I will also spend some time doing more research on this area. A viable substitute will be needed to reduce fossil fuel dependency, and from the sounds of it, this could be a promising source for ethanol production.
@ GenevaMech- I am currently studying energy and sustainability, and one interesting area of research has been finding carbohydrate substitutes for corn in regards to ethanol production. I am not sure about the comparison between potatoes and corn, but extensive research is being done on the viability of cassava and sweet potato yams.
A recent USDA study has concluded that yams produced three to three and a half times the carbohydrate yield per acre than corn in all regions tested. Besides the yield benefit, sweet potatoes represent a significantly smaller portion of the U.S. food supply, they can grow in a variety of climates, they mature faster than corn, they require significantly less fertilizer inputs, and they can grow better in marginal lands instead of prime farmland.
In theory, this would help reduce the food for fuel effect of corn ethanol, and the yam carbohydrates are equally as easy to process as sugarcane and corn carbohydrates. Yams can also be stored for up to three months before processing (unlike sugarcane). The potential for yams as a fuel source is more promising in the long term than corn.
Does anyone know what the ethanol yield per pound of corn is versus per pound of potatoes? If anyone knows, it does not necessarily have to be in pounds or British units; SI units are fine. I am curious to know if potatoes would yield more sugar ethanol than corn.
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