What is the Difference Between Ethanol and Methanol?
Methanol, commonly called wood alcohol, often gets confused with ethanol, a plant based alcohol.
Chemically the two differ. Methanol=(CH3OH) and Ethanol=(C2H5OH).
Contrary to the nickname, methanol is produced mostly from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, and on occasion, wood and other biomass products.
As an alternative vehicle fuel, methanol usually gets described as less flammable and less energy efficient than ethanol.
Because of its high octane rating, methanol remains a popular fuel in some racing circuits.
While methanol was once considered a strong candidate for alternative fuels, by the 1990s, ethanol, especially corn based ethanol won the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of major automobile manufacturers.
Recent proposals to transform natural gas to methanol introduces the possibility for renewed interest in methanol fuels. Most current alternative fuel vehicles that run on natural gas (methane) used compressed natural gas (CNG) stored in a tank.
According to statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, in 2006, corn based ethanol accounted for well over ninety percent of ethanol production in the United States.
Distilling ethanol from corn follows some basic procedures common to all alcohol production. Corn is milled into starch, and enzymes are added to convert corn starch to sugar. Adding yeast to the mixture promotes its fermentation into an alcohol called ethanol.
The newest ethanol technologies, often lumped under the name cellulosic ethanol, aim to convert all of the plant, not just the seed, into ethanol.
At issue fibrous part of the plant problematic for starch conversion. Researchers have adopted two different approaches for accomplishing that task, hydrolysis, a chemical process which breaks down plants into their constituent parts, and combustion, a thermal process that turns plants into liquids or gasses.
In February 2007, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) awarded funding to six different biomass technology companies to begin construction of commercial cellulosic ethanol demonstration plants.
© 2011-2012 Patricia A. Michaels