Isopropyl Alcohol / C3H8O a Versatile Chemical: Complete Guide

Isopropyl alcohol, sometimes referred to as rubbing alcohol or isopropanol, is an organic chemical and secondary alcohol. At room temperature, it has an unpleasant odor also it is a flammable and colorless liquid. It is a typical disinfectant and solvent that is applied in a variety of domestic and industrial settings. The chemical formula for isopropyl alcohol is C3H8O. Eight hydrogen atoms, one oxygen atom, and three carbon atoms make up its structure. Its alcohol characteristics come from the hydroxyl group (-OH) that is present in its structure.

It should be handled carefully because it is flammable and should be kept away from heat sources and open flames.

Physical properties:

  1. Boiling Point: 82.4 oC (180.3 oF).
  2. Melting Point: -89 oC (-128 oF).
  3. Density: 0.785 g/cm³.
  4. Molecular Weight: 60.10 g/mol-1
  5. Solubility: It is soluble is organic solvents and water.

Chemical properties:

1. Flammability: If exposed to an open flame or other ignition source, isopropyl alcohol is flammable and will quickly catch fire.

2. UV spectrum: The maximum absorption of isopropyl alcohol occurs at 205 nm.

3. Reactivity: The chemical reactions that isopropyl alcohol can go through include oxidation, esterification, and substitution reactions. It can react with some reactive metals, bases, and acids.

4. Stability: Under normal circumstances, isopropyl alcohol is relatively stable. In the presence of air, it can slowly oxidize and produce acetone.

5. Salting out: It is not soluble in salt solution like NaCl solution, so it is easily removed from solution by the addition of salt. Concentrated form separates into a distinct layer because of a procedure known as salting out.

Synthesis/ Production:

Isopropanol, can be synthesized through various methods. These are the most common ones.

Indirect Hydration:

In this process, propylene, a byproduct of the refining of petroleum or the processing of natural gas, is first changed into propylene oxide. Isopropyl alcohol is then produced by reacting propylene oxide with water.

Chlorohydrin production involves the reaction of propylene with chlorine to create propylene chlorohydrin. Sodium hydroxide is then used to process propylene chlorohydrin into propylene oxide. Finally, It is produced by hydrolyzing propylene oxide with water, usually with the aid of an acid catalyst.

Direct Hydration:

In this process, isopropyl alcohol is created via a direct reaction between propylene and water. Water and propylene are combined before being added to a reactor. Usually, this process is utilized by acidic catalyst such as H2SO4. When the combination is heated under regulated circumstances, a reaction occurs that produces isopropyl alcohol. Following synthesis, it is usually further refined using distillation or other methods to achieve a higher level of purity suitable for industrial or commercial applications.

Chemical reactions:

Due to the hydroxyl (-OH) functional group being present, It can go through a number of chemical reactions. It is crucial to keep in mind that certain reactions might necessitate particular reaction conditions, such as the presence of a catalyst, an appropriate temperature, or particular stoichiometric ratios of reactants.

  • Oxidation: In the presence of oxidizing chemicals, isopropyl alcohol can oxidize to produce acetone (propanone). Usually, an oxidizing substance like potassium dichromate (K2Cr2O7) or chromium trioxide (CrO3) is used to catalyze the reaction.

2C3H8O + K2Cr2O7 → 2C3H6O + 2H2O

  • Esterification: In the presence of an acid catalyst, isopropyl alcohol can create esters when it reacts with carboxylic acids. Alcohol and acid condense during the reaction, which produces ester and water as byproducts.


  • Dehydration: Isopropyl alcohol can dehydrate under specific circumstances, forming propylene while removing a water molecule. Typically, catalyst like H2SO4 and H3PO4 are utilized in this reaction.

C3H8O → C3H6 + H2O

  • Reaction with metals: It can form alkoxide salts when it encounters some reactive metals, such as sodium or potassium. In the process of the reaction, the metal displaces the hydrogen in the alcohol molecule.

2C3H8O + 2Na → 2C3H7ONa + H2

  • Acid-Base Reactions: When strong bases or acidic chemicals are combined with isopropyl alcohol, acid-base reactions can occur, producing salts or other reaction products. Protons (H+) are transferred from the acid or alcohol to the base in these reactions. The nature of the acid or base involved will determine the exact reaction products.

Versatile applications:

Isopropyl alcohol is a versatile chemical compound with numerous applications across various industries.

  1. Isopropyl alcohol has a relatively quick rate of evaporation, making it suitable in situations where quick drying is needed. It is frequently employed as a cooling agent in a variety of situations, including treating fevers, relieving muscle pain, and chilling electronic components.
  2. It is a common cleaning agent because of its versatility in dissolving a variety of materials, such as oils, greases, filth, and grime. It is frequently used to clean surfaces, electronic components, medical devices, and optical lenses because it is also relatively non-toxic.
  3. It is a powerful disinfectant, as it can kill many pathogens and fungi. It is frequently used to disinfect surfaces, equipment, and wounds in hospitals, laboratories, and domestic settings. Research is now being done to determine how well isopropyl alcohol disinfects against different pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  4. Many organic molecules can be dissolved by the adaptable solvent isopropyl alcohol. It is utilized as a solvent in many different industries, including the production of chemicals, printing inks, coatings, and cosmetics. It works very well for dissolving oils, resins, waxes, and gums. It is used as a solvent to extract or concentrate several substances, including flavors, essential oils, and botanical extracts.
  5. Isopropyl alcohol is frequently employed as an antiseptic to disinfect skin before injections or treatments and to treat wounds. It aids in eradicating microorganisms and avoiding illnesses.
  6. Because of its antibacterial qualities, it is a crucial ingredient in many hand sanitizers. When used as a hand sanitizer, it aids in the death of germs and stops the transmission of diseases.
  7. Some nations utilize isopropyl alcohol as a fuel additive to enhance the gasoline’s ability to burn. Additionally, it increases fuel efficiency and lessens engine knocking.
  8. To remove ice and frost from aircraft surfaces, deicing solutions for airplanes employ isopropyl alcohol. It prevents ice buildup and enhances aircraft performance.

Safety considerations:

It is important to consider the following safety precautions:

  • Flammability: Isopropyl alcohol burns readily and is highly flammable. Keep it far from heat sources, sparks, and open flames. Store it away from sources of ignition in a cool, well-ventilated place.
  • Ventilation: To avoid vapour buildup, isopropyl alcohol should only be used in well-ventilated areas. Use suitable safety equipment, such as a fume hood or respirator, or make sure there is adequate ventilation if you are working in a small area.
  • Contact with Skin and Eyes: Isopropyl alcohol can irritate the skin and eyes. Keep your hands and eyes away from your skin and eyes. If contact occurs, thoroughly rinse the afflicted area with water right once, and if required, seek medical attention.
  • Inhalation: The respiratory system may get irritated if isopropyl alcohol vapors are inhaled. Use isopropyl alcohol in a space that is well-ventilated and keep your airways clear of the vapors. Use the proper respiratory protection when operating in confined places or with high concentrations.
  • Handling and Storage: Keep isopropyl alcohol away from incompatible materials and in the proper containers. To avoid evaporation and potential fire concerns, keep it well packed. Observe the handling and storage instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • Chemical compatibility: Use isopropyl alcohol with other compounds with caution. With certain compounds, such as potent oxidizers, acids, and alkalis, it may react. To prevent any chemical reactions, use suitable handling and storage techniques.
  • Safety equipment: To prevent skin and eye contact when working with isopropyl alcohol, wear the proper safety gear, such as gloves, lab coats, and safety glasses.


The chemical molecule isopropyl alcohol has been thoroughly researched throughout the years, and research has been done on its numerous uses, characteristics, and safety issues. While isopropyl alcohol has numerous practical uses, it should be handled and used properly in accordance with the relevant standards and precautions.

Is isopropyl alcohol poisonous?

Through its metabolites, isopropyl alcohol is marginally more hazardous than ethanol, but far less toxic than ethylene glycol or methanol. It is uncommon for someone to die after ingesting or absorbing even very significant amounts.

Does our body manufacture or contain isopropyl alcohol?

When we have diabetic ketoacidosis, a small amount of isopropyl alcohol builds up in our bodies.

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