Water molecules are a product of the combustion of ethanol.
Combustion is a term that simply means burning things. It happens all the time around us, from the flame of a lighter to the controlled explosion that starts a muscle car engine. Different substances for combustion are constantly being considered for various reasons, including the abundance of the substance being burned and what is produced when this happens. One such substance often used for combustion is ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol.
The combustion of ethanol is quite simple. Ethanol and oxygen go into a chemical reaction with the help of a little bit of energy. The reaction results in a significant release of energy in the form of heat and light, as well as the formation of carbon dioxide and water.
The combustion of ethanol can be represented chemically using molecular formulas. Ethanol, represented by C 2 H 5 OH, combines with six oxygen atoms denoted as 3O 2 . When the reaction is initiated by the addition of energy in the form of heat or a spark, 2CO 2 and 3H 2 O (two carbon dioxides and three molecules of water) are formed. Energy is also released when the reaction takes place.
Ethyl alcohol has both advantages and disadvantages over other common fuels. Ethanol combustion produces a silent flame that emits few important pollutants when compared to petroleum-derived fuels. Ethyl alcohol is also relatively easily manufactured from the fermentation of plant materials, while other fuels require significantly more difficult processes to create. Ethanol combustion, however, produces less heat energy than many other commonly used fuel materials.
One of the most common places where ethanol combustion occurs is in vehicle engines. It is not uncommon for some agricultural machinery and other light vehicles to be powered only by ethanol. Most cars in the United States of America run on a mixture of petroleum gasoline and a small percentage of ethanol, although this requires the vehicle’s fuel injectors to be properly regulated. In Brazil and in some other countries, cars can be found that run on almost pure ethyl alcohol or with mixtures of very high percentages.
Another common use of ethanol is in ethanol burners. These devices are also known as alcohol lamps and alcohol stoves. They burn alcohol to produce heat and light and can be found in science labs, boats, camping kits, and homes. Some ethanol burners simply use a wick to feed the alcohol to the combustion site, while others use gravity or more complex systems. These devices tend not to burn as much as similar devices that use other fuels, but are considered safer in many situations.