Methanol

Methanol

Overview
Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

 with the formula
Chemical formula
A chemical formula or molecular formula is a way of expressing information about the atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound....

 C
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

H
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

3O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

H
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 (often abbreviated MeOH). It is the simplest alcohol
Alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

, and is a light, volatile
Volatility (chemistry)
In chemistry and physics, volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize. Volatility is directly related to a substance's vapor pressure. At a given temperature, a substance with higher vapor pressure vaporizes more readily than a substance with a lower vapor pressure.The term is primarily...

, color
Color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

less, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

 (drinking alcohol). At room temperature, it is a polar liquid, and is used as an antifreeze, solvent
Solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

, fuel
Fuel
Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air...

, and as a denaturant for ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

.
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Encyclopedia
Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

 with the formula
Chemical formula
A chemical formula or molecular formula is a way of expressing information about the atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound....

 C
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

H
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

3O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

H
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 (often abbreviated MeOH). It is the simplest alcohol
Alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

, and is a light, volatile
Volatility (chemistry)
In chemistry and physics, volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize. Volatility is directly related to a substance's vapor pressure. At a given temperature, a substance with higher vapor pressure vaporizes more readily than a substance with a lower vapor pressure.The term is primarily...

, color
Color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

less, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

 (drinking alcohol). At room temperature, it is a polar liquid, and is used as an antifreeze, solvent
Solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

, fuel
Fuel
Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air...

, and as a denaturant for ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

. It is also used for producing biodiesel
Biodiesel
Biodiesel refers to a vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel fuel consisting of long-chain alkyl esters. Biodiesel is typically made by chemically reacting lipids with an alcohol....

 via transesterification
Transesterification
In organic chemistry, transesterification is the process of exchanging the organic group R″ of an ester with the organic group R′ of an alcohol. These reactions are often catalyzed by the addition of an acid or base catalyst...

 reaction.

Methanol is produced naturally in the anaerobic
Anaerobic organism
An anaerobic organism or anaerobe is any organism that does not require oxygen for growth. It could possibly react negatively and may even die if oxygen is present...

 metabolism
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

 of many varieties of bacteria, and is ubiquitous in the environment. As a result, there is a small fraction of methanol vapor in the atmosphere. Over the course of several days, atmospheric methanol is oxidized with the help of sunlight to carbon dioxide and water.

Methanol burns in air, forming carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 and water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

:
2 CH3OH + 3 O2 → 2 CO2 + 4 H2O


Because of its toxic properties, methanol is frequently used as a denaturant additive for ethanol manufactured for industrial uses — this addition of methanol exempts industrial ethanol from liquor excise taxation. Methanol is often called wood alcohol because it was once produced chiefly as a byproduct of the destructive distillation
Destructive distillation
Destructive distillation is the chemical process involving the decomposition of feedstock by heating to a high temperature; the term generally applies to processing of organic material in the absence of air or in the presence of limited amounts of oxygen or other reagents, catalysts, or solvents,...

 of wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

.

History


In their embalming
Embalming
Embalming, in most modern cultures, is the art and science of temporarily preserving human remains to forestall decomposition and to make them suitable for public display at a funeral. The three goals of embalming are thus sanitization, presentation and preservation of a corpse to achieve this...

 process, the ancient Egyptians used a mixture of substances, including methanol, which they obtained from the pyrolysis
Pyrolysis
Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures without the participation of oxygen. It involves the simultaneous change of chemical composition and physical phase, and is irreversible...

 of wood. Pure methanol, however, was first isolated in 1661 by Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle FRS was a 17th century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology. He has been variously described as English, Irish, or Anglo-Irish, his father having come to Ireland from England during the time of the English plantations of...

, when he produced it via the distillation of buxus
Buxus
Buxus is a genus of about 70 species in the family Buxaceae. Common names include box or boxwood ....

 (boxwood). It later became known as "pyroxylic spirit". In 1834, the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 chemists Jean-Baptiste Dumas
Jean-Baptiste Dumas
Jean Baptiste André Dumas was a French chemist, best known for his works on organic analysis and synthesis, as well as the determination of atomic weights and molecular weights by measuring vapor densities...

 and Eugene Peligot determined its elemental composition.

They also introduced the word "methylene" to organic chemistry, forming it from Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 methy = "wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

" + hȳlē = wood
Woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

 (patch of trees), with Greek language errors: "wood (substance)" (Greek xylon) was intended, and the components in the wrong order for Greek. The term "methyl" was derived in about 1840 by back-formation
Back-formation
In etymology, back-formation is the process of creating a new lexeme, usually by removing actual or supposed affixes. The resulting neologism is called a back-formation, a term coined by James Murray in 1889...

 from "methylene", and was then applied to describe "methyl alcohol". This was shortened to "methanol" in 1892 by the International Conference on Chemical Nomenclature
IUPAC nomenclature
A chemical nomenclature is a set of rules to generate systematic names for chemical compounds. The nomenclature used most frequently worldwide is the one created and developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry ....

. The suffix -yl used in organic chemistry
Organic chemistry
Organic chemistry is a subdiscipline within chemistry involving the scientific study of the structure, properties, composition, reactions, and preparation of carbon-based compounds, hydrocarbons, and their derivatives...

 to form names of carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 groups, was extracted from the word "methyl".

In 1923, the German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 chemists Alwin Mittasch and Mathias Pier, working for BASF
BASF
BASF SE is the largest chemical company in the world and is headquartered in Germany. BASF originally stood for Badische Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik . Today, the four letters are a registered trademark and the company is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange, and Zurich Stock...

, developed a means to convert synthesis gas
Syngas
Syngas is the name given to a gas mixture that contains varying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Examples of production methods include steam reforming of natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen, the gasification of coal, biomass, and in some types of waste-to-energy...

 (a mixture of carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide , also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal...

, carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

, and hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

) into methanol. A patent was filed Jan 12 1926 (reference no. 1,569,775). This process used a chromium and manganese oxide catalyst, and required extremely vigorous conditions—pressures ranging from 50 to 220 atm
Atmosphere (unit)
The standard atmosphere is an international reference pressure defined as 101325 Pa and formerly used as unit of pressure. For practical purposes it has been replaced by the bar which is 105 Pa...

, and temperatures up to 450 °C
Celsius
Celsius is a scale and unit of measurement for temperature. It is named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius , who developed a similar temperature scale two years before his death...

. Modern methanol production has been made more efficient through use of catalysts (commonly copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

) capable of operating at lower pressures, the modern low pressure methanol (LPM) was developed by ICI in the late 1960s with the technology now owned by Johnson Matthey, which is a leading licensor of methanol technology.

Methanol is one of the most heavily traded chemical commodities in the world, with an estimated global demand of around 27 to 29 million metric tons. In recent years, production capacity has expanded considerably, with new plants coming on-stream in South America, China and the Middle East, the latter based on access to abundant supplies of methane gas. Even though nameplate production capacity (coal-based) in China has grown significantly, operating rates are estimated to be as low as 50 to 60%. No new production capacity is scheduled to come on-stream until 2015.

The main applications for methanol are formaldehyde (used in construction and wooden boarding), acetic acid (basis for a.o. PET-bottles), MTBE (fuel component) and more recently as an ester group in the production of bio-diesel. In China, demand is expected to grow exponentially, not only caused by a growing internal market of the traditional applications, but accelerated by new applications, such as direct blending (with gasoline), Methanol-To-Olefins (e.g. propylene) and DME. Methanol can also be used to produce gasoline.

The use of methanol as a motor fuel received attention during the oil crises of the 1970s due to its availability, low cost, and environmental benefits. By the mid-1990s, over 20,000 methanol "flexible fuel vehicles" capable of operating on methanol or gasoline were introduced in the U.S. In addition, low levels of methanol were blended in gasoline fuels sold in Europe during much of the 1980s and early-1990s. Automakers stopped building methanol FFVs by the late-1990s, switching their attention to ethanol-fueled vehicles. While the methanol FFV program was a technical success, rising methanol pricing in the mid- to late-1990s during a period of slumping gasoline pump prices diminished the interest in methanol fuels. Additionally, methanol is highly corrosive to rubber and many synthetic polymers used in the automotive industry, whereas ethanol is not.

In 2006, astronomers using the MERLIN
MERLIN
The Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network is an interferometer array of radio telescopes spread across England. The array is run from Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire by the University of Manchester on behalf of STFC as a National Facility.The array consists of up to seven radio...

 array of radio telescopes at Jodrell Bank Observatory
Jodrell Bank
The Jodrell Bank Observatory is a British observatory that hosts a number of radio telescopes, and is part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester...

 discovered a large cloud of methanol in space, 288 billion miles across.

Production


Today, synthesis gas is most commonly produced from the methane
Methane
Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

 component in natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 rather than from coal. Three processes are commercially practiced. At moderate pressures of 4 MPa
MPA
-Academic degrees:* Master of Professional Accountancy* Master of Public Administration* Master of Public Affairs* Master of Physician's Assistant-Chemicals:* Medroxyprogesterone acetate, also known by the brand name Depo-Provera* Morpholide of pelargonic acid...

 (40 atm) and high temperatures (around 850 °C), methane reacts
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

 with steam
Steam
Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. In common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air...

 on a nickel catalyst to produce syngas
Syngas
Syngas is the name given to a gas mixture that contains varying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Examples of production methods include steam reforming of natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen, the gasification of coal, biomass, and in some types of waste-to-energy...

 according to the chemical equation
Chemical equation
A chemical equation is the symbolic representation of a chemical reaction where the reactant entities are given on the left hand side and the product entities on the right hand side. The coefficients next to the symbols and formulae of entities are the absolute values of the stoichiometric numbers...

:
CH4 + H2O → CO + 3 H2


This reaction, commonly called steam-methane reforming or SMR, is endothermic
Endothermic
In thermodynamics, the word endothermic describes a process or reaction in which the system absorbs energy from the surroundings in the form of heat. Its etymology stems from the prefix endo- and the Greek word thermasi,...

, and the heat transfer limitations place limits on the size of and pressure in the catalytic reactors used. Methane can also undergo partial oxidation with molecular oxygen to produce syngas, as the following equation shows:
2 CH4 + O2 → 2 CO + 4 H2


This reaction is exothermic
Exothermic
In thermodynamics, the term exothermic describes a process or reaction that releases energy from the system, usually in the form of heat, but also in the form of light , electricity , or sound...

, and the heat given off can be used in-situ to drive the steam-methane reforming reaction. When the two processes are combined, it is referred to as autothermal reforming. The ratio of CO and H2 can be adjusted to some extent by the water-gas shift reaction
Water gas shift reaction
The water-gas shift reaction is a chemical reaction in which carbon monoxide reacts with water vapor to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen:The water-gas shift reaction is an important industrial reaction. It is often used in conjunction with steam reforming of methane or other hydrocarbons, which is...

,
CO + H2O → CO2 + H2,


to provide the appropriate stoichiometry for methanol synthesis.

The carbon monoxide and hydrogen then react on a second catalyst to produce methanol. Today, the most widely used catalyst is a mixture of copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

, zinc oxide
Zinc oxide
Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound with the formula ZnO. It is a white powder that is insoluble in water. The powder is widely used as an additive into numerous materials and products including plastics, ceramics, glass, cement, rubber , lubricants, paints, ointments, adhesives, sealants,...

, and alumina first used by ICI
Imperial Chemical Industries
Imperial Chemical Industries was a British chemical company, taken over by AkzoNobel, a Dutch conglomerate, one of the largest chemical producers in the world. In its heyday, ICI was the largest manufacturing company in the British Empire, and commonly regarded as a "bellwether of the British...

 in 1966. At 5–10 MPa (50–100 atm) and 250 °C, it can catalyze the production of methanol from carbon monoxide and hydrogen with high selectivity:
CO + 2 H2 → CH3OH


It is worth noting that the production of synthesis gas from methane produces three mole
Mole (unit)
The mole is a unit of measurement used in chemistry to express amounts of a chemical substance, defined as an amount of a substance that contains as many elementary entities as there are atoms in 12 grams of pure carbon-12 , the isotope of carbon with atomic weight 12. This corresponds to a value...

s of hydrogen gas for every mole of carbon monoxide, while the methanol synthesis consumes only two moles of hydrogen gas per mole of carbon monoxide. One way of dealing with the excess hydrogen is to inject carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 into the methanol synthesis reactor, where it, too, reacts to form methanol according to the equation:
CO2 + 3 H2 → CH3OH + H2O


Although natural gas is the most economical and widely used feedstock for methanol production, many other feedstocks can be used to produce syngas via steam reforming. Coal is increasingly being used as a feedstock for methanol production, particularly in China. In addition, mature technologies available for biomass gasification are being used for methanol production.
For instance, woody biomass can be gasified to water gas
Water gas
Water gas is a synthesis gas, containing carbon monoxide and hydrogen. It is a useful product but requires careful handling because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The gas is made by passing steam over a red-hot hydrocarbon fuel such as coke:...

 (a hydrogen-rich syngas), by introducing a blast of steam in a blast furnace
Blast furnace
A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally iron.In a blast furnace, fuel and ore and flux are continuously supplied through the top of the furnace, while air is blown into the bottom of the chamber, so that the chemical reactions...

. The water-gas / syngas can then be synthesized to methanol using standard methods. The net process is carbon neutral
Carbon neutral
Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference...

, since the CO2 byproduct is required to produce biomass via photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

.
2 C16H23O11 + 19 H2O + O2 → 42 H2 + 21 CO + 11 CO2 → 21 CH3OH + 11 CO2

Applications


Methanol, a common laboratory solvent, is especially useful for HPLC
High-performance liquid chromatography
High-performance liquid chromatography , HPLC, is a chromatographic technique that can separate a mixture of compounds and is used in biochemistry and analytical chemistry to identify, quantify and purify the individual components of the mixture.HPLC typically utilizes different types of stationary...

, UV/VIS spectroscopy, and LCMS due to its low UV cutoff.

Feedstock


The largest use of methanol by far is in making other chemicals. About 40% of methanol is converted to formaldehyde
Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is an organic compound with the formula CH2O. It is the simplest aldehyde, hence its systematic name methanal.Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent odor. It is an important precursor to many other chemical compounds, especially for polymers...

, and from there into products as diverse as plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

s, plywood
Plywood
Plywood is a type of manufactured timber made from thin sheets of wood veneer. It is one of the most widely used wood products. It is flexible, inexpensive, workable, re-usable, and can usually be locally manufactured...

, paint
Paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

s, explosives, and permanent press
Permanent press
A permanent press is a characteristic of fabric that has been chemically processed to resist wrinkles and hold its shape. Alternative terms include wrinkle resistant, wash and wear, no-iron,durable press, and easy care...

 textile
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s.

Also in the early 1970s, a methanol to gasoline process was developed by Mobil
Mobil
Mobil, previously known as the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, was a major American oil company which merged with Exxon in 1999 to form ExxonMobil. Today Mobil continues as a major brand name within the combined company, as well as still being a gas station sometimes paired with their own store or On...

 for producing gasoline ready for use in vehicles. One such industrial facility was built at Motunui
Motunui
Motunui is a settlement in northern Taranaki, in the North Island of New Zealand. It is located on State Highway 3 close to the shore of the North Taranaki Bight, six kilometres east of Waitara....

 in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 in the 1980s. In the 1990s, large amounts of methanol were used in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to produce the gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether
Methyl tert-butyl ether
Methyl tert-butyl ether, also known as methyl tertiary butyl ether and MTBE, is an organic compound with molecular formula 3COCH3. MTBE is a volatile, flammable, and colorless liquid that is immiscible with water. It has a minty odor vaguely reminiscent of diethyl ether, leading to unpleasant taste...

 (MTBE). While MTBE is no longer marketed in the U.S., it is still widely used in other parts of the world. In addition to direct use as a fuel, methanol (or less commonly, ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

) is used as a component in the transesterification
Transesterification
In organic chemistry, transesterification is the process of exchanging the organic group R″ of an ester with the organic group R′ of an alcohol. These reactions are often catalyzed by the addition of an acid or base catalyst...

 of triglycerides to yield a form of biodiesel
Biodiesel
Biodiesel refers to a vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel fuel consisting of long-chain alkyl esters. Biodiesel is typically made by chemically reacting lipids with an alcohol....

.

Other chemical derivatives of methanol include dimethyl ether
Dimethyl ether
Dimethyl ether , also known as methoxymethane, is the organic compound with the formula . The simplest ether, it is a colourless gas that is a useful precursor to other organic compounds and an aerosol propellant. When combusted, DME produces minimal soot and CO, though HC and NOx formation is...

, which has replaced chlorofluorocarbon
Chlorofluorocarbon
A chlorofluorocarbon is an organic compound that contains carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, produced as a volatile derivative of methane and ethane. A common subclass are the hydrochlorofluorocarbons , which contain hydrogen, as well. They are also commonly known by the DuPont trade name Freon...

s as an aerosol spray propellant, and acetic acid
Acetic acid
Acetic acid is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3CO2H . It is a colourless liquid that when undiluted is also called glacial acetic acid. Acetic acid is the main component of vinegar , and has a distinctive sour taste and pungent smell...

. Dimethyl ether
Dimethyl ether
Dimethyl ether , also known as methoxymethane, is the organic compound with the formula . The simplest ether, it is a colourless gas that is a useful precursor to other organic compounds and an aerosol propellant. When combusted, DME produces minimal soot and CO, though HC and NOx formation is...

 (DME) also can be blended with liquified petroleum gas
Liquified petroleum gas
Liquefied petroleum gas is a flammable mixture of hydrocarbon gases used as a fuel in heating appliances and vehicles. It is increasingly used as an aerosol propellant and a refrigerant, replacing chlorofluorocarbons in an effort to reduce damage to the ozone layer...

 (LPG) for home heating and cooking, and can be used as a diesel replacement for transportation fuel.

Fuel for vehicles



Methanol is used on a limited basis to fuel internal combustion engine
Internal combustion engine
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high -pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine...

s. Pure methanol is required by rule to be used in Champcars, Monster Trucks, USAC
United States Automobile Club
The United States Auto Club is one of the sanctioning bodies of auto racing in the United States. From 1956 to 1979, the USAC sanctioned the United States National Championship, and from 1956 to 1997 the organization sanctioned the Indianapolis 500...

 sprint cars (as well as midgets, modifieds, etc.), and other dirt track series, such as World of Outlaws
World of Outlaws
The World of Outlaws is an American motorsports sanctioning body. The body sanctions two major national touring series. It is best known for sanctioning a national tour of sprint cars. It later purchased a national tour of late model stockcars called the World of Outlaws Late Model Series...

, and Motorcycle Speedway
Motorcycle speedway
Motorcycle speedway, usually referred to as speedway, is a motorcycle sport involving four and sometimes up to six riders competing over four anti-clockwise laps of an oval circuit. Speedway motorcycles use only one gear and have no brakes and racing takes place on a flat oval track usually...

. Methanol is also used, as the primary fuel ingredient since the late 1940s, in the powerplants for radio control, control line
Control line
Control line is a simple and light way of controlling a flying model aircraft. The aircraft is connected to the operator by a pair of lines, attached to a handle, that work the elevator of the model. This allows the model to be controlled in the pitch axis...

 and free flight
Free flight (model aircraft)
The segment of model aviation known as free flight is the original form of the aeromodeling hobby, extending back centuries.- Description :...

 airplanes
Model aircraft
Model aircraft are flying or non-flying models of existing or imaginary aircraft using a variety of materials including plastic, diecast metal, polystyrene, balsa wood, foam and fibreglass...

 (as methanol is required in the engines that primarily power them), cars and trucks, from such an engine's use of a platinum
Platinum
Platinum is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pt and an atomic number of 78. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina del Pinto, which is literally translated into "little silver of the Pinto River." It is a dense, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white transition metal...

 filament glow plug
Glow plug (model engine)
A glow plug is a device, similar to a spark plug, used to help ignite the fuel in the very small internal combustion engines typically used in model aircraft, model cars and similar applications...

 being able to ignite the methanol vapor through a catalytic reaction. Drag racers
Drag racing
Drag racing is a competition in which specially prepared automobiles or motorcycles compete two at a time to be the first to cross a set finish line, from a standing start, in a straight line, over a measured distance, most commonly a ¼-mile straight track....

 and mud racers, as well as heavily modified tractor pullers
Tractor pulling
Truck and Tractor pulling, also known as power pulling, is a motorsport competition, popular in America, Europe , Australia and Brazil, which requires modified tractors to pull a heavy sledge along a 35ft. wide and length of 100 metre or 300ft+ track, with the winner being the tractor that pulls...

, also use methanol as their primary fuel source. Methanol is required with a supercharged engine in a Top Alcohol dragster and, until the end of the 2006 season, all vehicles in the Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, also known as the Indianapolis 500, the 500 Miles at Indianapolis, the Indy 500 or The 500, is an American automobile race, held annually, typically on the last weekend in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana...

 had to run methanol. Mud racers have mixed methanol with gasoline and nitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas or sweet air, is a chemical compound with the formula . It is an oxide of nitrogen. At room temperature, it is a colorless non-flammable gas, with a slightly sweet odor and taste. It is used in surgery and dentistry for its anesthetic and analgesic...

 to produce more power than gasoline and nitrous oxide alone.

One of the potential drawbacks of using high concentrations of methanol (and other alcohols, such as ethanol) in fuel is its corrosivity
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 to some metals, particularly aluminum. Methanol, although a weak acid, attacks the oxide coating that normally protects the aluminum from corrosion:
6 CH3OH + Al2O3 → 2 Al(OCH3)3 + 3 H2O


The resulting methoxide
Methoxide
Methoxides are organic salts and the simplest alkoxides. Sodium methoxide and potassium hydroxide have widespread use, though other variants such as lithium hydroxide, rubidium methoxide, caesium methoxide, and francium methoxide exist as well.- Methoxide ion :In organic chemistry, the methoxide...

 salts are soluble in methanol, resulting in a clean aluminium surface, which is readily oxidized by dissolved oxygen. Also, the methanol can act as an oxidizer:
6 CH3OH + 2 Al → 2 Al(OCH3)3 + 3 H2


This reciprocal process effectively fuels corrosion until either the metal is eaten away or the concentration of CH3OH is negligible. Concerns with methanol's corrosivity have been addressed by using methanol-compatible materials, and fuel additives that serve as corrosion inhibitors.

When produced from wood or other organic materials, the resulting organic methanol (bioalcohol) has been suggested as renewable alternative to petroleum-based hydrocarbon
Hydrocarbon
In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons from which one hydrogen atom has been removed are functional groups, called hydrocarbyls....

s. Low levels of methanol can be used in existing vehicles, with the use of proper cosolvents and corrosion inhibitors. The European Fuel Quality Directive allows up to 3% methanol with an equal amount of cosolvent to be blending in gasoline sold in Europe. Today, China uses more than one billion gallons of methanol per year as a transportation fuel in both low level blends used in existing vehicles, and as high level blends in vehicles designed to accommodate the use of methanol fuels.

Other applications


Methanol is a traditional denaturant for ethanol, the product being known as "methylated spirit".

Methanol is also used as a solvent
Solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

, and as an antifreeze in pipelines
Pipeline transport
Pipeline transport is the transportation of goods through a pipe. Most commonly, liquids and gases are sent, but pneumatic tubes that transport solid capsules using compressed air are also used....

 and windshield washer fluid
Windshield washer fluid
Windshield washer fluid is a fluid for motor vehicles that is used in cleaning the windshield with the windshield wiper while the vehicle is being driven.-Delivery system:A control within the car can be operated to squirt fluid onto the windshield, typically using an...

.

In some wastewater treatment plants
Sewage treatment
Sewage treatment, or domestic wastewater treatment, is the process of removing contaminants from wastewater and household sewage, both runoff and domestic. It includes physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove physical, chemical and biological contaminants...

, a small amount of methanol is added to wastewater
Wastewater
Wastewater is any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influence. It comprises liquid waste discharged by domestic residences, commercial properties, industry, and/or agriculture and can encompass a wide range of potential contaminants and concentrations...

 to provide a carbon food source for the denitrifying bacteria
Denitrifying bacteria
Denitrifying bacteria form a necessary part of the process known as denitrification as part of the nitrogen cycle, their primary purpose being to metabolise nitrogenous compounds, with the assistance of the nitrase reductase enzyme, to turn oxides back to nitrogen gas or nitrous oxides for energy...

, which convert nitrate
Nitrate
The nitrate ion is a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO and a molecular mass of 62.0049 g/mol. It is the conjugate base of nitric acid, consisting of one central nitrogen atom surrounded by three identically-bonded oxygen atoms in a trigonal planar arrangement. The nitrate ion carries a...

s to nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 to reduce the nitrification of sensitive aquifers.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, methanol was used as a fuel in several German military rocket designs, under the name M-Stoff, and in a mixture known as C-Stoff
C-Stoff
C-Stoff was a reductant used in bipropellant rocket fuels developed by Hellmuth Walter Kommanditgesellschaft in Germany during World War 2...

.

Methanol was used as an automobile coolant antifreeze in the early 1900s.

Methanol is used as a denaturing agent in polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis.

Direct-methanol fuel cell
Direct-methanol fuel cell
Direct-methanol fuel cells or DMFCs are a subcategory of proton-exchange fuel cells in which methanol is used as the fuel. Their main advantage is the ease of transport of methanol, an energy-dense yet reasonably stable liquid at all environmental conditions.Efficiency is presently quite low for...

s are unique in their low temperature, atmospheric pressure operation, allowing them to be miniaturized to an unprecedented degree. This, combined with the relatively easy and safe storage and handling of methanol may open the possibility of fuel cell-powered consumer electronics
Consumer electronics
Consumer electronics are electronic equipment intended for everyday use, most often in entertainment, communications and office productivity. Radio broadcasting in the early 20th century brought the first major consumer product, the broadcast receiver...

, such as for laptop computers and mobile phones.

Methanol is also a widely used fuel in camping and boating stoves. Methanol burns well in an unpressurized burner, so alcohol stoves are often very simple, sometimes little more than a cup to hold fuel. This lack of complexity makes them a favorite of hikers who spend extended time in the wilderness.

Methanol is mixed with water and injected into high performance diesel engines for an increase of power and a decrease in exhaust gas temperature in a process known as water methanol injection.

Toxicity


Methanol has a high toxicity in humans. If ingested, for example, as little as 10 mL of pure methanol can cause permanent blindness
Blindness
Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define blindness...

 by destruction of the optic nerve
Optic nerve
The optic nerve, also called cranial nerve 2, transmits visual information from the retina to the brain. Derived from the embryonic retinal ganglion cell, a diverticulum located in the diencephalon, the optic nerve doesn't regenerate after transection.-Anatomy:The optic nerve is the second of...

, and 30 mL is potentially fatal, although a fatal dose is typically 100–125 mL (4 fl oz) (i.e. 1–2 mL/kg of pure methanol). Toxic effects take hours to start, and effective antidotes can often prevent permanent damage. Because of its similarities to ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

 (the alcohol in beverages), it is difficult to differentiate between the two (such is the case with denatured alcohol).

Methanol is toxic by two mechanisms. First, methanol (whether it enters the body by ingestion
Ingestion
Ingestion is the consumption of a substance by an organism. In animals, it normally is accomplished by taking in the substance through the mouth into the gastrointestinal tract, such as through eating or drinking...

, inhalation
Inhalation
Inhalation is the movement of air from the external environment, through the air ways, and into the alveoli....

, or absorption through the skin
Skin
-Dermis:The dermis is the layer of skin beneath the epidermis that consists of connective tissue and cushions the body from stress and strain. The dermis is tightly connected to the epidermis by a basement membrane. It also harbors many Mechanoreceptors that provide the sense of touch and heat...

) can be fatal due to its CNS depressant properties in the same manner as ethanol poisoning. Second, in a process of toxication
Toxication
Toxication is the process of metabolism in which the metabolite of a compound is more toxic than the parent drug or chemical. A parent drug or chemical that was previously non-toxic may be called a protoxin.Toxication may involve:...

, it is metabolized
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

 to formic acid
Formic acid
Formic acid is the simplest carboxylic acid. Its chemical formula is HCOOH or HCO2H. It is an important intermediate in chemical synthesis and occurs naturally, most notably in the venom of bee and ant stings. In fact, its name comes from the Latin word for ant, formica, referring to its early...

 (which is present as the formate ion) via formaldehyde
Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is an organic compound with the formula CH2O. It is the simplest aldehyde, hence its systematic name methanal.Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent odor. It is an important precursor to many other chemical compounds, especially for polymers...

 in a process initiated by the enzyme
Enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

 alcohol dehydrogenase
Alcohol dehydrogenase
Alcohol dehydrogenases are a group of dehydrogenase enzymes that occur in many organisms and facilitate the interconversion between alcohols and aldehydes or ketones with the reduction of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide...

 in the liver
Liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

. Methanol is converted to formaldehyde via alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and formaldehyde is converted to formic acid (formate) via aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). The conversion to formate via ALDH proceeds completely, with no detectable formaldehyde remaining. Formate is toxic because it inhibits mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase
Cytochrome c oxidase
The enzyme cytochrome c oxidase or Complex IV is a large transmembrane protein complex found in bacteria and the mitochondrion.It is the last enzyme in the respiratory electron transport chain of mitochondria located in the mitochondrial membrane...

, causing the symptoms of hypoxia
Hypoxia (medical)
Hypoxia, or hypoxiation, is a pathological condition in which the body as a whole or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. Variations in arterial oxygen concentrations can be part of the normal physiology, for example, during strenuous physical exercise...

 at the cellular level, and also causing metabolic acidosis
Metabolic acidosis
In medicine, metabolic acidosis is a condition that occurs when the body produces too much acid or when the kidneys are not removing enough acid from the body. If unchecked, metabolic acidosis leads to acidemia, i.e., blood pH is low due to increased production of hydrogen by the body or the...

, among a variety of other metabolic disturbances. Fetal tissue will not tolerate methanol.

Methanol poisoning can be treated with the antidotes ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

 or fomepizole
Fomepizole
Fomepizole or 4-methylpyrazole is indicated for use as an antidote in confirmed or suspected methanol or ethylene glycol poisoning. It may be used alone or in combination with hemodialysis...

. Both drugs act to reduce the action of alcohol dehydrogenase
Alcohol dehydrogenase
Alcohol dehydrogenases are a group of dehydrogenase enzymes that occur in many organisms and facilitate the interconversion between alcohols and aldehydes or ketones with the reduction of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide...

 on methanol by means of competitive inhibition
Competitive inhibition
Competitive inhibition is a form of enzyme inhibition where binding of the inhibitor to the active site on the enzyme prevents binding of the substrate and vice versa.-Mechanism:...

, so it is excreted by the kidney
Kidney
The kidneys, organs with several functions, serve essential regulatory roles in most animals, including vertebrates and some invertebrates. They are essential in the urinary system and also serve homeostatic functions such as the regulation of electrolytes, maintenance of acid–base balance, and...

s rather than being transformed into toxic metabolites. Further treatment may include giving sodium bicarbonate
Sodium bicarbonate
Sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate is the chemical compound with the formula Na HCO3. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda . The natural mineral form is...

 for metabolic acidosis, and hemodialysis
Hemodialysis
In medicine, hemodialysis is a method for removing waste products such as creatinine and urea, as well as free water from the blood when the kidneys are in renal failure. Hemodialysis is one of three renal replacement therapies .Hemodialysis can be an outpatient or inpatient therapy...

 or hemodiafiltration can be used to remove methanol and formate from the blood. Folinic acid
Folinic acid
Folinic acid or leucovorin , generally administered as calcium or sodium folinate , is an adjuvant used in cancer chemotherapy involving the drug methotrexate. It is also used in synergistic combination with the chemotherapy agent 5-fluorouracil.Levofolinic acid and its salts are the enantiopure...

 or folic acid
Folic acid
Folic acid and folate , as well as pteroyl-L-glutamic acid, pteroyl-L-glutamate, and pteroylmonoglutamic acid are forms of the water-soluble vitamin B9...

 is also administered to enhance the metabolism of formate.

The initial symptoms of methanol intoxication include central nervous system
Central nervous system
The central nervous system is the part of the nervous system that integrates the information that it receives from, and coordinates the activity of, all parts of the bodies of bilaterian animals—that is, all multicellular animals except sponges and radially symmetric animals such as jellyfish...

 depression
Depressant
A depressant, or central depressant, is a drug or endogenous compound that depresses the function or activity of a specific part of the brain...

, headache, dizziness, nausea, lack of coordination, confusion, and with sufficiently large doses, unconsciousness and death. The initial symptoms of methanol exposure are usually less severe than the symptoms resulting from the ingestion of a similar quantity of ethanol. Once the initial symptoms have passed, a second set of symptoms arises, 10 to as many as 30 hours after the initial exposure to methanol, including blurring or complete loss of vision and acidosis
Acidosis
Acidosis is an increased acidity in the blood and other body tissue . If not further qualified, it usually refers to acidity of the blood plasma....

. These symptoms result from the accumulation of toxic levels of formate
Formate
Formate or methanoate is the ion CHOO− or HCOO− . It is the simplest carboxylate anion. It is produced in large amounts in the hepatic mitochondria of embryonic cells and in cancer cells by the folate cycle Formate or methanoate is the ion CHOO− or HCOO− (formic acid minus one hydrogen ion). It...

 in the blood, and may progress to death by respiratory failure
Respiratory failure
The term respiratory failure, in medicine, is used to describe inadequate gas exchange by the respiratory system, with the result that arterial oxygen and/or carbon dioxide levels cannot be maintained within their normal ranges. A drop in blood oxygenation is known as hypoxemia; a rise in arterial...

. Small amounts of methanol are produced by the metabolism of food and are generally harmless, being metabolized quickly and completely.

Ethanol is sometimes denatured (adulterated), and thus made undrinkable, by the addition of methanol. The result is known as methylated spirit, "meths" (UK use) or "metho" (Australian slang). These are not to be confused with "meth", a common U.S. abbreviation for methamphetamine
Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine is a psychostimulant of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of psychoactive drugs...

, and U.K. abbreviation for methadone
Methadone
Methadone is a synthetic opioid, used medically as an analgesic and a maintenance anti-addictive for use in patients with opioid dependency. It was developed in Germany in 1937...

.

Safety in automotive fuels


Pure methanol has been used in open wheel auto racing
Open wheel car
Open-wheel car, formula car, or often single-seater car in British English, describes cars with the wheels outside the car's main body and, in most cases, one seat. Open-wheel cars contrast with street cars, sports cars, stock cars, and touring cars, which have their wheels below the body or fenders...

 since the mid-1960s. Unlike petroleum fires, methanol fires can be extinguished
Active fire protection
Active fire protection is an integral part of fire protection. AFP is characterised by items and/or systems, which require a certain amount of motion and response in order to work, contrary to passive fire protection.-Fire suppression:...

 with plain water. A methanol-based fire burns invisibly, unlike gasoline, which burns with a visible flame. If a fire occurs on the track, there is no flame or smoke to obstruct the view of fast approaching drivers, but this can also delay visual detection of the fire and the initiation of fire suppression. The decision to permanently switch to methanol in American IndyCar
American Championship Car Racing
Since 1916 there has been a recognized United States national automobile racing National Championship for drivers of professional-level, single-seat open wheel race cars. The championship has been under the auspices of several different sanctioning bodies since 1909. Since 1911, the Indianapolis...

 racing was a result of the devastating crash and explosion at the 1964 Indianapolis 500
1964 Indianapolis 500
The 1964 Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 30, 1964. It was won by A.J. Foyt, but is best known for a fiery seven-car, second-lap accident that resulted in the deaths of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald...

, which killed drivers Eddie Sachs
Eddie Sachs
Edward Julius Sachs, Jr, born May 28, 1927 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, died May 30, 1964 in Speedway, Indiana was a United States Auto Club driver who was known as the "Clown Prince of Auto Racing." He coined the phrase "If you can't win, be spectacular."...

 and Dave MacDonald
Dave MacDonald
David George MacDonald was an American road racing champion noted for his successes driving Corvettes and Shelby Cobras in the early 1960s. His promising career ended abruptly after a crash in the 1964 Indianapolis 500 in which he was one of two drivers killed in a fiery inferno that directly led...

. In 2007 IndyCars switched to ethanol.

Methanol is readily biodegradable in both aerobic (oxygen present) and anaerobic (oxygen absent) environments. Methanol will not persist in the environment. The half-life for methanol in groundwater is just one to seven days, while many common gasoline components have half-lives in the hundreds of days (such as benzene
Benzene
Benzene is an organic chemical compound. It is composed of 6 carbon atoms in a ring, with 1 hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom, with the molecular formula C6H6....

 at 10–730 days). Since methanol is miscible with water and biodegradable, it is unlikely to accumulate in groundwater, surface water, air or soil.

See also


  • Liquid fuels
  • Methanol fuel
    Methanol fuel
    Methanol is an alternative fuel for internal combustion and other engines, either in combination with gasoline or directly . It is used in racing cars and in China...

  • Methanol (data page)
    Methanol (data page)
    - Material Safety Data Sheet : The handling of this chemical may incur notable safety precautions. It is highly recommend that you seek the Material Safety Datasheet for this chemical from a reliable source such as , and follow its directions...

  • Methanol economy
    Methanol economy
    The methanol economy is a suggested future economy in which methanol replaces fossil fuels as a means of energy storage, ground transportation fuel, and raw material for synthetic hydrocarbons and their products. It offers an alternative to the proposed hydrogen economy or ethanol economy.In the...

  • Deuterated methanol
    Deuterated methanol
    Deuterated methanol , is a form of methanol in which the hydrogen atom is replaced with deuterium isotope . Deuterated methanol is a common solvent used in NMR spectroscopy....

  • Pärnu methanol tragedy
    Pärnu methanol tragedy
    The Pärnu methanol tragedy was an incident in Pärnu county, Estonia on September 9, 2001 and following days that led to death of 68 people, disability to 40 people, and severe disability to 3 people....

  • Dimethyl ether
    Dimethyl ether
    Dimethyl ether , also known as methoxymethane, is the organic compound with the formula . The simplest ether, it is a colourless gas that is a useful precursor to other organic compounds and an aerosol propellant. When combusted, DME produces minimal soot and CO, though HC and NOx formation is...



Further reading

  • Robert Boyle
    Robert Boyle
    Robert Boyle FRS was a 17th century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology. He has been variously described as English, Irish, or Anglo-Irish, his father having come to Ireland from England during the time of the English plantations of...

    , The Sceptical Chymist
    The Sceptical Chymist
    The Sceptical Chymist: or Chymico-Physical Doubts & Paradoxes is the title of Robert Boyle's masterpiece of scientific literature, published in London in 1661. In the form of a dialogue, the Sceptical Chymist presented Boyle's hypothesis that matter consisted of atoms and clusters of atoms in...

    (1661) – contains account of distillation of wood alcohol.

External links