Ethanol and its history
Ethanol，also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid.
Ethanol is a psychoactive drug, best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and in modern thermometers. Ethanol is one of the oldest recreational drugs. In common usage, it is often referred to simply as alcohol or spirits.
Ethanol has been used by humans since prehistory as the intoxicating ingredient of alcoholic beverages. Dried residues on 9,000-year-old pottery found in China imply that alcoholic beverages were used even among Neolithic people.Its isolation as a relatively pure compound was first achieved by the Persian alchemist, Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes, 865–925).
Two other chemists who contributed to the development of distillation techniques were Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan) and Al-Kindi (Alkindus). Writings attributed to Geber (721–815) mention the flammable vapors of boiled wine. Al-Kindi (801–873) unambiguously described the distillation of wine.
In 1796, Johann Tobias Lowitz obtained pure ethanol by filtering distilled ethanol through activated charcoal.
Antoine Lavoisier described ethanol as a compound of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and in 1808 Nicolas-Théodore de Saussure determined ethanol’s chemical formula. Fifty years later, Archibald Scott Couper published the structural formula of ethanol, which placed ethanol among the first compounds whose chemical structure had been determined.
In 1826, ethanol was first prepared synthetically through the independent efforts of Henry Hennel in Great Britain and S.G. Sérullas in France.
In 1828, Michael Faraday prepared ethanol by acid-catalyzed hydration of ethylene, a process similar to that which is used today for industrial ethanol synthesis.
Ethanol was used as lamp fuel in the United States as early as 1840, but a tax levied on industrial alcohol during the Civil War made this use uneconomical. This tax was repealed in 1906, and from 1908 onward Ford Model T automobiles could be adapted to run on ethanol. With the advent of Prohibition in 1920 though, sellers of ethanol fuel were accused of being allied with moonshiners, and ethanol fuel again fell into disuse until late in the 20th century.