The Difference between Ethanol and Trifluoroethanol

by: Stephanie Larkin

There are many differences between Ethanol and Trifluoroethanol. One of the major differences in usage is that ethanol has recently been used as an alternative fuel. Although Ethanol is used as a solvent as well, Trifluoroethanol on the other hand is an organic compound that is used as a solvent in chemistry.

Chemistry Make Up of Ethanol and Trifluoroethanol

Ethanol is also known as drinking alcohol or grain alcohol, or ethyl alcohol. It is a flammable and colorless chemical compound. The alcohol in beverages with alcohol is also known as ethanol. Many times, Ethanol is referred to simply as "alcohol", although that distinction is not always quite correct. It has the molecular formula of EtOH, CH3CH2OH, C2H5OH, and is also known by its empirical formula of C2H6O. Ethanol is classified as being an alcohol. This means that the carbon that is attached to its hydroxyl group is a carbon which has at least two hydrogen atoms that are attached to it also. Ethanol has a hydroxyl proton that is weakly acidic, even more so than water.

Trifluoroethanol, on the other hand, is an fluoro organic compound. It has the formula of CF3CH2OH. It is also known as TFE, and is sometimes called trifluoroethyl alcohol. It is also colorless, but is a liquid compound that is water-miscible. It is often confused with Ethanol because Trifluoroethanol smells similar to Ethanol. Trifluoroethanol is extremely acidic, much more acidic than ethanol. It is therefore able to form stable compounds with other heterocycles, through hydrogen bonding.

Creation of Ethanol and Trifluoroethanol

Ethanol is created by the fermentation of sugar. This is almost the earliest organic reaction that is known to man. In fact, this organic reaction, and the intoxicating effects that consuming Ethanol have had on the body, have been known since ancient times. Ethanol is also used in industry, and this type of ethanol is produced from petroleum refining.

Trifluoroethanol, on the other hand, is produced industrially. It is formed by the process of hydrogenation – or the process of the reduction of hydride derivatives of esters or acid chloride. These derivatives of trifluoroacetic acid are what produce Trifluoroethanol. Trifluoroethanol can also be produced by hydrogenolysis of certain compounds. These are the compounds of the genetic formula CF3-CHOH-OR.

Uses of Ethanol and Trifluoroethanol

Ethanol has been used for many years as a solvent for substances that are intended to come into contact with humans. This includes lots of different things, such as scents, flavorings, medicines, or colorings. It is also a solvent in chemistry. This is because it is extremely versatile – meaning that it can be mixed with water and many other organic solvents. Some of these include acetic acide, benzene, acetone, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, diethyl ether, glycerol, ethylene glycol, pyridine, toluene, and nitromethane. It can also be mixed with aliphatic chlorides. These include trichloroethane, and tetrachloroethylene.

Ethanol and water mixed together create several unusual phenomena. It is able to reduce the surface tension of water. It also forms an azeotrope or constant-boiling mixture when it is mixed with water.

However, most notably Ethanol is used as a fuel for internal combustion engines. It is used for motor fuel, and also for a fuel additive. This happens all over the world, but Brazil has the highest percentage of Ethanol that is found in fuels. 20% of the fuel is ethanol. In the United States, a mixture of 85% Ethanol has been introduced as a fuel for cars. Cars must be created with the ability to use this fuel.

Trifluoroethanol, on the other hand, is used as a solvent in organic chemistry. Most notably, Trifluoroethanol is used in oxidations of sulfur compounds that use hydrogen peroxide. Trifluoroethanol is also used in biology. It is a co-solvent in the protein folding process that is used with NMR spectroscopy. This is because TFE can solubilize proteins and also peptides. It has a very strong effect on the structure of proteins, which is a three dimensional structure. This effect allows Trifluoroethanol to be used in these situations and to be used to create solutions with proteins. Trifluoroethanol is also used industrially. It is used in these situations as a solvent for nylon. This allows the nylon to be changed and molded. Trifluoroethanol is also used in several applications in the pharmaceutical field.

Although Ethanol and Trifluoroethanol smell the same, and are both used as solvents, they are actually quite different. Understanding this difference allows companies and researchers to use both of these compounds to their greatest overall potentials.