Alcohol

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In chemistry, an alcohol is any organic compound in which a hydroxyl group (-OH) is bound to a carbon atom of an alkyl or substituted alkyl group. The general formula for a simple acyclic alcohol is CnH2n+1OH.

In layman's terms, the word alcohol usually refers to a variety of intoxicating beverages containing some form of alcohol such as ethanol. Ethanol is a colorless, volatile liquid with a mild odor which can be obtained by the fermentation of sugars. (Industrially, it is more commonly obtained by ethylene hydration — the reaction of ethylene with water in the presence of phosphoric acid.) Interstellar travellers should be aware, however, that different carbon-based life forms may be intoxicated by different alcohols, and that "alcohol" in general should not be consumed without a proper chemical analysis to avoid poisoning and/or death. In particular, never drink Bacterian Vodka, even if you are a Bactarian.

Applications

Alcohol can be used as a beverage, as fuel and for many scientific, medical, and industrial utilities. A 50 % v/v solution of ethylene glycol in water is commonly used as an antifreeze on Class M worlds. Some alcohols, mainly ethanol and methanol, can be used as an automotive fuel. Performance can be increased in forced induction internal combustion engines by injecting alcohol into the air intake after the turbocharger or supercharger has pressurized the air. This cools the pressurized air, providing a denser air charge, which allows for more fuel, and therefore more power.

Scientific, medical, and industrial

Alcohols have applications in industry and science as reagents or solvents. Because of its low toxicity and ability to dissolve non-polar substances, ethanol can be used as a solvent in medical drugs, perfumes, and vegetable essences. In organic synthesis, alcohols serve as versatile intermediates.

Ethanol can be used as an antiseptic to disinfect the skin before injections are given, often along with iodine. Alcohol is also used as a preservative for specimens.