Synthetic alcohol

One route to an ethanol solution is the production of synthetic ethanol. This is often done industrially, and may or may not be economical in various parts of the world.

Synthetic ethyl alcohol is produced by treating Ethyl Acetate with a strong alkali, or "base" (e.g. lye, Sodium Hydroxide). Ethyl acetate, a common industrial solvent, is an ester, a chemical combination of ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and acetic acid (vinegar). Treating it with a strong base breaks the ester bond, liberating ethyl alcohol and acetic acid. The acid immediately reacts with the base to form the salt sodium acetate. After the pH of the solution is adjusted to near 7 (neutral), the pure alcohol may be distilled from this mixture.

This procedure is NOT recommended unless you have experience handling strong chemicals, and they can be obtained cheaply in your locale. It is really included for completeness - if it wasn't, someone would write us and ask "Why didn't you mention the ethyl acetate method?"

If the term "pH" is unfamiliar, don't worry! The pH of a solution is a measure of how acidic or how alkaline it is, with 0 being the most acidic, 7 being neutral (neither acidic nor alkaline) and 14 the most alkaline. The scale is logarithmic, which means that each number on the scale is TEN TIMES the previous one. Thus, pH 5 is ten times as acidic as pH 6, and pH 11 is ten times as alkaline as pH 10. For a few real-world examples, Lemon juice is about pH 2.5 (very acidic), Human skin is about pH 5.5 (very mildly acidic), and liquid soap (the clear kind found in public bathrooms) is about pH 10. For a more complete explanation, please see Appendix 1.

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