Ethanol, also called alcohol, ethyl alcohol and grain alcohol, is a clear, colorless liquid and the principle ingredient in alcoholic beverages like beer, wine or brandy. Because it can readily dissolve in water and other organic compounds, ethanol also is an
ingredient in a range of products, from personal care and beauty products to paints and varnishes to fuel
?Where Does It Come From
Ethanol can be fermented from many sources of starch, including corn, wheat, grain sorghum, barley, and potatoes, and from sugar crops such as sugar cane and sweet sorghum. Because there has been has been an abundant supply of corn, most of the ethanol made in the United States is from corn. Most of the ethanol is produced in the Midwest and Upper Midwest where ethanol plants are close to and have a consistent supply of corn, access to water resources, and have livestock production nearby. A by-product of ethanol production is distillers grains, which can be fed to livestock either wet or dried. Because the wet distillers grains are perishable and heavy, which adds to transportation costs, they are usually used within a 100 mile radius of an ethanol plant. Distillers grains are more stable and easier to transport when an ethanol producer dries them, however that increases the energy cost for the ethanol producer. Distillers grains retain many of the nutrients from corn, since only the starch has been removed. Due to the high fiber
content most of the distillers grains are fed to beef and dairy cattle, however, they can also be used as poultry and pig feed.
Uses & Benefits
Personal Care Products
Ethanol is a common ingredient in many cosmetics and beauty products. It acts as an astringent to help clean skin, as a preservative in lotions and to help ensure that lotion ingredients do not separate, and it helps hairspray adhere to hair.
Because ethanol is effective in killing microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses, it is a common ingredient in many hand sanitizers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of hand sanitizers in situations where soap and water are not available. Practicing hand hygiene is also an important part of helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Using hand sanitizers or alcohol based hand rubs (ABHR) can help to inactivate SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Ethanol mixes easily with water and many organic compounds, and makes an effective solvent for use in paints, lacquers and varnish, as well as personal care and household cleaning products. As an additive to cleaning products, ethanol is also used as a preservative because it is effective in knocking out organisms that could pose a danger to consumers.
As a food additive, ethanol can help evenly distribute food coloring, as well as enhance the flavor of food extracts. For example, vanilla extract, a common food flavoring, is made by curing and processing vanilla beans in a solution of ethanol and water. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only allows vanilla to be called “extract” when it has an alcohol or ethanol base.
More than 97 percent of U.S. gasoline contains ethanol, typically in a mixture called E10, made up of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, to oxygenate the fuel and reduce air pollution. Ethanol has a higher octane number than gasoline, providing premium blending properties, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Minimum octane number requirements prevent engine knocking and maintain drivability.