What is Isopropyl Alcohol?

Published on November 23, 2023

What is Isopropyl Alcohol?

Isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is a versatile chemical compound with a wide range of applications. The Isopropyl alcohol formula is C3H8O1. It is a colorless and flammable liquid that is widely used as a disinfectant, antiseptic, solvent, and cleaning agent. 

Its molecular structure consists of three carbon atoms, eight hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom. Isopropyl alcohol is valued for its ability to kill microorganisms on surfaces and skin, dissolve oils and greases, and act as a cooling agent. It finds extensive use in medical, industrial, and household settings due to its effective sanitizing and solvent properties.

The compound is registered under the 67-63-0 number according to the Chemical Abstracts Services (CAS). As a rule, it’s sold in the form of the 99.9% concentration solution. It features the following properties:

  • Density: 0.785 g/cm³ (20°C)
  • Melting point:  −98,5 °C
  • Boiling point: 82,4 °C

History of Isopropyl Alcohol

The history of isopropyl alcohol traces back to the 1920s when it was first produced on an industrial scale. Its discovery and development were influenced by the growing demand for effective antiseptics and disinfectants. In 1920, Standard Oil Company (now ExxonMobil) developed a process for manufacturing isopropyl alcohol through a catalytic hydrogenation reaction of acetone. 

This innovation allowed for the mass production of isopropyl alcohol, which soon gained popularity for its various applications in the medical and industrial sectors. During World War II, isopropyl alcohol's effectiveness as a disinfectant and solvent led to its widespread use in hospitals and military operations. Over the years, its significance has continued to expand, finding utility in cleaning, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and beyond, solidifying its place as a versatile chemical compound in modern society.

Isopropyl Alcohol Uses

The reactivity and chemical properties of the compound contributed to its extensive adaption across many industries and numerous isopropyl alcohol 99.9% uses. To be more specific, the solution is applied in:

  • Disinfection and Cleaning: Isopropyl alcohol is widely used as an effective disinfectant and antiseptic agent. It is commonly employed to clean and disinfect surfaces, equipment, and medical instruments due to its ability to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • Medical Applications: Isopropyl alcohol is a staple in medical settings for its use in cleaning and sterilizing surfaces and equipment. It is also utilized as a disinfectant for skin before injections and surgeries. Additionally, it can be found in pharmaceutical formulations as a solvent for various medications.
  • Solvent: Isopropyl alcohol is a versatile solvent in various industries. It dissolves a wide range of substances, making it useful for manufacturing processes, including the production of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and personal care products.
  • Paint and Ink Removal: Isopropyl alcohol is effective in removing paint, ink, and adhesive residues from surfaces. It can help clean surfaces prior to painting or applying adhesives.
  • Coolant and Heat Transfer Fluid: In some industrial applications, isopropyl alcohol is used as a heat transfer fluid and coolant due to its relatively high boiling point and low freezing point.
  • Cosmetics and Personal Care: Isopropyl alcohol is present in various cosmetic and personal care products, including perfumes, aftershaves, and hair sprays, where it helps in enhancing the drying time and evaporation of the product after application.
  • Fuel Additive: Isopropyl alcohol is used as a fuel additive to improve the combustion efficiency of gasoline. It can also be added to fuel to prevent water buildup and phase separation.
  • Flavor Extraction: In the culinary world, isopropyl alcohol is used for extracting flavors from various ingredients, such as herbs and spices, to create extracts and tinctures used in cooking and baking.

The versatility and effectiveness of isopropyl alcohol make it an essential chemical compound in a wide range of industries, from healthcare and manufacturing to electronics and beyond.

Author: Chemist EU

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