In chemistry, an alcohol is any organic compound in which a hydroxyl functional group (-O[->0]H) is bound to a carbon atom, usually connected to other carbon or hydrogen atoms.
The suffix -ol appears in the IUPAC chemical name of all substances where the hydroxyl group is the functional group with the highest priority; in substances where a higher priority group is present the prefix hydroxy- will appear in the IUPAC name.
In the IUPAC system, the name of the alkane chain loses the terminal "e" and adds "ol", e.g. "methanol" and "ethanol". When necessary, the position of the hydroxyl group is indicated by a number between the alkane name and the "ol": propan-1-ol for CH3CH2CH2OH, propan-2-ol for CH3CH(OH)CH3. Sometimes, the position number is written before the IUPAC name: 1-propanol and 2-propanol. If a higher priority group is present (such as an aldehyde, ketone or carboxylic acid), then it is necessary to use the prefix "hydroxy", for example: 1-hydroxy-2-propanone (CH3COCH2OH).
Alcohols are classified into primary, secondary and tertiary, based upon the number of carbon atoms connected to the carbon atom that bears the hydroxyl group. The prefixes sec- (or s-) and tert- (or t-), conventionally in italics, may be used before the alkyl group's name to distinguish secondary and tertiary alcohols, respectively, from the primary one.
Physical and chemical properties
Alcohols have an odor that is often described as “biting” and as “hanging” in the nasal passages.
The hydroxyl group generally makes the alcohol molecule polar. Those groups can form hydrogen bonds to one another and to other compounds (except in certain large molecules where the hydroxyl is protected by steric hindrance of adjacent groups). This hydrogen bonding means that alcohols can be used as protic solvents.
Two opposing solubility trends in alcohols are: the tendency of the polar OH to promote solubility in water, and of the carbon chain to resist it. Thus, methanol, ethanol, and propanol are miscible in water because the hydroxyl group wins out over the short carbon chain. Butanol, with a four-carbon chain, is moderately soluble because of a balance between the two trends. Alcohols of five or more carbons (Pentanol and higher) are effectively insoluble in water because of the hydrocarbon chain's dominance. All simple alcohols are miscible in organic solvents.
Because of hydrogen bonding, alcohols tend to have higher boiling points than comparable hydrocarbons and ethers..
Alcohols, like water, can show either acidic or basic properties at the O-H group. With a pKa of around 16-19 they are generally slightly weaker acids than water, but they are still able to react with strong bases such as sodium hydride or reactive metals such as sodium.
Several methods exist for the preparation of alcohols in the laboratory.
Primary alkyl halides react with aqueous NaOH or KOH mainly to primary alcohols in nucleophilic aliphatic substitution. (Secondary and especially tertiary alkyl halides will give the elimination (alkene) product instead).
Aldehydes or ketones are reduced to form either primary or secondary alcohols.
Alkenes engage in an acid catalysed hydration reaction using concentrated sulfuric acid as a catalyst which gives usually secondary or tertiary alcohols. The formation of a secondary alcohol via reduction and hydration is shown:
Alcohols can behave as weak acids, undergoing deprotonation. The deprotonation reaction to produce an alkoxide salt.
The acidity of alcohols is also affected by the overall stability of the