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If ranking the quality of each ethanol type, anhydrous alcohol would, without question, top any list: this clear liquid is devoid of all of its water content through continuous distillation, earning it the names of absolute alcohol and pure ethanol. But why do we need anhydrous alcohol? And what is the potential of this ethanol type for the near future?
The primary difference between anhydrous alcohol and "regular" ethanol lies in their water content. While regular ethanol, such as the one used in alcoholic beverages, contains some percentage of water, anhydrous alcohol is entirely devoid of water. This purity makes it particularly valuable for applications where even trace amounts of water can cause undesired effects.
The presence of water in regular ethanol can lead to issues like phase separation, microbial growth, and changes in physical properties. In contrast, anhydrous alcohol offers better stability, solvency, and consistency in chemical reactions.
Due to its very high alcohol share (99.5 to 99.9% ABV) and the low to non-existent water percentage, anhydrous alcohol is very popular in industries where contact with water could damage machinery and products. For example, in the electronics industry, cleaning electrical components and printed circuit boards (PCBs) with ethanol-containing water could damage the product, which is avoided by using anhydrous alcohol.
However, anhydrous alcohol’s biggest market share is as a solvent in the automotive, building, and construction industries: Paint thinners, lacquers, and coatings are commonly using anhydrous alcohol for an even distribution of colour and quick drying.
The demand for anhydrous alcohol has been steadily rising in recent years and is expected to rise further due to its increasing adoption in various industries. As green technology and sustainability become more prevalent in our everyday lives, anhydrous alcohol has found its place in the biofuels sector, contributing to the efforts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the pharmaceutical industry, the demand for anhydrous alcohol is also anticipated to grow, with a surge in drug development and research activities.
The biggest anhydrous alcohol market and strongest growing force is the Asian-Pacific region: due to rising demand for paints and coatings in the building and construction industries, its market share is expected to stay the largest and grow significantly. Additionally, increasing commercial and private building activities in developing countries drive up the need for solvents containing pure ethanol.
The future of anhydrous alcohol seems promising, with opportunities for expansion in emerging markets and novel applications. Its utility in sustainable energy solutions, coupled with its ever-expanding role in scientific and industrial fields, is likely to secure its position as a highly sought-after chemical substance.
With its diverse range of applications, from laboratories to green technology, anhydrous alcohol's significance in modern industries cannot be understated. As long as its advantageous properties exist, we can expect a consistently growing market, making anhydrous alcohol increasingly prevalent in various applications.
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