Isopropyl alcohol, 2-propanol, propane-2-ol are all names of the same chemical compound with a chemical formula C3H8O and a hydroxyl group attached to the second carbon atom. Belonging to the family of alcohols, it is the simplest example of secondary alcohols, often referred to as the structural isomer of 1-propanol and ethyl methyl ether.
It is a colorless, flammable chemical compound with a strong odor; and has been a popular household and industrial commodity for a decade now.
Background of Isopropyl Alcohol
The first commercial synthetic alcohol was discovered by the chemists of Standard Oil Company in New Jersey in 1920 while reacting propylene with sulfuric acid, which followed its hydrolysis.
Uses of Isopropyl Alcohol
Despite having a fair share of dangerous characteristics, isopropyl alcohol is one of the most effective, efficient, and widely used secondary alcohol, having application in a wide array of industrial and household chores. Its multipurpose use, accessibility, and low cost have made its application both vast and convenient. Its generous use is in notion with its strong antiseptic, disinfectant, and detergent properties. Some of its profound applications are as follows:
Isopropyl alcohol has strong antibacterial properties and is a popular antiseptic agent for ages. It is as famous as other high proof ethanol products in this domain. Used for killing surface bacteria before injections, piercings, hematological tests – an act called ‘skin preparation’. Its concentration varies from 70% to 90%, labeled accordingly. An isopropyl alcohol solution below 50% lacks in its bactericidal properties, which increases with increasing concentrations. For antiseptic use suitable for application on the skin, 70% concentration is ideal. While for disinfecting hospital surfaces, instruments, and scrubs, a high-proof, potent 90% to 99% isopropyl alcohol is preferred, as it evaporates fast, leaving absolutely no residue.
Now the question arises how isopropyl alcohol kills bacteria? The answer is the intricate ratio of alcohol and water enables it to permeate the cell wall of bacteria, denaturing its cell membrane’s protein, sabotaging its defense mechanism, and eventual dissolution of its viable inner content leading to its death.
Isopropyl alcohol is a potent solvent dissolving many polar non-polar compounds and leaving almost no residue on evaporation. It has made it a preferable material as compared to solvents in all fields. Their application is discrete yet succinct, from printmaking to surface cleansers or an avid application in laboratory specimen preservation.
Isopropyl alcohol can also be used as a chemical synthesis intermediate. For example, it may esterify to yield isopropyl acetate, another solvent. It may then react with hydrogen disulfide and sodium hydroxide to give isopropyl xanthate, an ore-floatation agent and herbicide.
4. Cleaning agent
Isopropyl alcohol’s strong bactericidal properties and its volatility, non-toxicity, and solvent property have made it a premium surface disinfectant in hospitals, laboratories, and houses. Moreover, it is also widely used for cleaning Electronic Equipment like ROM cartridges, optical disk drive lasers, IC packages, CDs, and DVDs.
Astringents are compounds, that when applied to your skin, cause your pores to tighten and contract. Therefore, they are a common ingredient in many toners and pore tightening formulas on account of their astringent properties. They may also tighten and close minute capillary leakages—an important property to cater to blemishes and acne.
6. Liniment for muscle aches
A liniment is an agent applied to aching muscles to culminate pain and swelling. As everyone knows, isopropyl alcohol is a skin irritant. Hence, it increases the blood flow to the area where it is applied by irritating the skin. Thus, alleviating pain and soreness of muscles.
7. Treatment of swimmer’s ear
Swimmer’s ear is a common condition to swimmers where water is trapped deep inside the auditory canal, which creates uneasiness and pain. And if the situation aggravates– infection. A drop of isopropyl alcohol poured inside the ear to mix with water leads to its evaporation along with the water, drying out the ear and protecting the ear against infections.
8. Fuel additive
Isopropyl alcohol is widely used in the automobile industry as a gas-dryer fuel additive. Water accumulation in fuel tank a common problem may clog supply lines during winters. It solubilizes water, which then no longer clog supply changes, solving the problem.
How to take care of Isopropyl alcohol?
As isopropyl alcohol is a flammable, odorless compound that poses appreciable threats to humans, its handling requires some vigilant etiquettes. These instructions are imperative to maintain a safe application; and are as follows:
• Isopropyl alcohol is denser than air and is hence flammable. It must be kept away from heat and open flame.
• It is to be noted that isopropyl alcohol is high-proof alcohol and must not be ingested. In the case of consumption, immediately seek medical advice as it may be fatal and can cause blindness.
• It is hazardous to the eyes. In case of contact, immediately wash your eyes with water and seek medical advice.
• Isopropyl alcohol is a skin irritant and must be diluted before application on skin or handled by wearing gloves when used as a disinfectant/cleansing agent.
• Isopropyl alcohol poses an inhalation risk and must be handled in a well-ventilated area while wearing masks. Its inhalation may cause dizziness, headache, and in severe cases, narcosis.
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