Ethanol is a natural bye-product of plant fermentation and can be produced with the hydration of ethylene. The chemical formula of ethanol is C2H5OH that burns with oxygen in air to give carbon dioxide and water.

Some interesting facts about Ethanol

  • Ethanol also called alcohol, Ethyl alcohol and drinking alcohol, is a chemical compound, an alcohol with formula C2H5OH.
  • Ethanol is prepared on large scales from Ethene (C2H4) by addition of water vapours to it, in the presence of catalyst like Phosphorus Pentoxide (P2O5), Tungsten oxide at high pressure and temperature.
  • Grains such as Corn, Wheat and Barley are common sources of ethanol.
  • The process of conversion of Starches and Sugars to ethanol is called Fermentation.
  • Ethanol is colorless liquid with character sweet odour.
  • Pure ethanol is boiled at 78.37o C and is called absolute (100%) alcohol.
  • Pure ethanol is toxic and 200ml of it is a fatal dose to an adult.

Burning of Ethanol using Currency note (Combustion reaction)

Ethanol is also called ethyl alcohol or drinking alcohol. It is a colorless liquid with a slight odour and is soluble in water. It is flammable & volatile as it is evaporated easily when left in an open container. The chemical reaction is

C2H5OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 3H2O + Energy

A combustion reaction occurs between alcohol & oxygen, producing  carbon dioxide, water, heat & light energy

Steps to Perform the Experiment (Burning of Ethanol)

Precautions: Ethanol is highly flammable and should not be used near open flames. Wear safety glasses and hand gloves before performing the experiment.

Apparatus Required:


1.Prepare solution of ethanol & water: Take equal amounts of ethanol and water to form a mixture. The boiling temperature of ethanol is 78.37oC & boiling point of water is 100oC.

2. Immerse the Currency/Paper in mixture: Dip the currency note or paper in the mixture of ethanol and water & get it soaked properly so that ethanol and water are well applied to currency/paper/money.

3. Burn the paper/currency: After the paper is fully wet with the solution, take it out with the help of tongs or forceps and shake gently to remove any excess liquid. Now use the gas lighter to burn the paper. As ethanol is highly flammable, it catches fire immediately.

4. Observe the Process: Due to the difference in boiling temperatures of water and ethanol, all that is burnt is ethanol only as the boiling temperature of water (100 degree Celsius) is more than that of ethanol (78.37 degree Celsius). Hence the paper does not burn at all.

Uses of Ethanol

  • Medical: As ethanol has antifungal and antibacterial properties, it is used for preparing medical wipes and hand sanitizers, antidotes etc.
  • Fuel: Ethanol is commonly used as a fuel in early bipropellant rocket (liquid propellant) vehicles. The use of ethanol as a fuel for internal combustion engines, either alone or in combination with other fuels, has been given much attention mostly because of its possible environmental and long-term economical advantages over fossil fuel.
  • Household Products: Ethanol easily mixes with water to form many organic compounds, and make effective solvents for paints, lacquers and varnishes as well as household cleaning products.
  • Personal Care Products: It is added in many cosmetics and beauty products as it acts as an astringent in cleaning the skin, in lotions as preservatives.