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What is propanol?

Propanol or propyl alcohol uses widely for the production of various organic compounds, intermediates, and solvents in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Propanol has two isomers like n-propanol or n-propyl alcohol or 1-propanol and isopropanol or 2-propanol with the chemical formula C3H8O or C3H7OH. Propanol is an alcohol with a three-carbon chain and an alcoholic group in its structure.

Propanol or propyl alcohol uses, chemical formula C3H8 and structure of n-propanol or 1-propanol and isopropanol or 2-propanol

It is used widely in antiseptic, cleaning agents, astringents, and muscle ache treatments. Currently, propanol uses for the production of propylene which is an important substance in chemical industries. It is less toxic than methanol and ethanol.

Uses of propanol

It has two isomers like 1-propanol or n-propyl alcohol and 2-propanol or isopropanol. Both the compounds are widely used as a solvent and intermediate in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

They are also used widely in electronics cleaning products. Isopropanol (one of these two isomers) is used to manufacture various types of organic compounds such as acetone, glycerol, isopropyl acetate, etc.

The most common uses of propanol (n-propyl alcohol and isopropanol) are

  • Solvents/intermediate
  • Medicinal use
  • Motor fuel


Propanol is used as a solvent in many pharmaceuticals and chemical processes. Two isomeric compounds, n-propyl alcohol, and isopropanol can dissolve a wide range of non-polar chemical compounds. Therefore, they can be used to dissolve ethyl cellulose, polyvinyl butyral, essential and other oils, alkaloids, gums, resins, etc.

It is also used for the production of other solvents such as antifreeze, lacquer, soap solutions, dye solutions, etc.

Isopropanol is a green solvent. The isopropanol solution uses for the synthesis of amines and their derivatives by hydrogenation of nitro compounds. These amines and their derivatives are used for the synthesis of different pharmaceuticals, polymers, and agrochemical products.

Medicinal use

In the medicine or healthcare industry, it is used widely for the production of rubbing alcohol, disinfectants, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, etc. Generally, we used 60–90 percent solutions of isopropanol and water for the production of hand sanitizer.

We also used a topical rub of propanol to relieve muscle pain. Early days, it can be used in anesthesia but it causes several types of toxic side effects on humans. Therefore, propanol is not safe to use in anesthesia.


Propanol has a high octane number and is quite suitable for use as a biofuel in engines. It is also less toxic and less volatile compared to methanol. But the use of propanol as a biofuel does not gain much more attention due to its production cost compared to gasoline.

The energy density of propyl alcohol is not much higher than ethanol and not much lower than butanol. Therefore, commonly we use a mixture of propanol–butanol–ethanol as a fuel for engines.

Production process

Both the compounds, n-propyl alcohol, and isopropanol are industrially attractive chemical compounds that can be produced by many chemical processes. The most common production process are given below,

  • n-propyl alcohol is originally obtained from fusel oil but it is now produced by the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide. The largest use of n-propyl alcohol as a solvent in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and lacquer industries.
  • Isopropyl alcohol is prepared industrially by passing propane obtained from petroleum into concentrated sulfuric acid, Then it can be diluted with water and distilled off. It is used widely for the production of acetone, ketene, and high octane fuel.

Structure of propanol

Propanol is alcohol with the general molecular formula C3H8O or C3H7OH. It has two isomeric forms n-propyl alcohol and isopropanol with two different structures.

Both the forms contain a carbon chain with three carbon atoms in their structure. The position of the hydroxyl group is different for n-propyl alcohol and isopropanol.

Structure of n-propyl alcohol

The chemical formula for n-propyl alcohol is written as CH3CH2CH2OH. Therefore, the hydroxyl group is directly attached to the primary carbon atom of n-propyl alcohol.

The structure of n-propyl alcohol is given below the picture,


Structure of isopropanol

The chemical formula of isopropanol is written as CH3CHOHCH3 or (CH3)2CHOH. Hence an isopropyl group is directly attached to the hydroxyl group in the isopropanol or isopropyl alcohol molecule.

The structure of isopropanol or 2-propanol molecule is given below the picture,

Isopropanol or isopropyl alcohol or 2 propanol chemical formula, structure and uses