AskDefine | Define butanol

Dictionary Definition

butanol n : a flammable alcohol derived from butanes and used for solvents [syn: butyl alcohol]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of four isomeric aliphatic alcohols, C4H9-OH
    1. butan-1-ol or n-butanol or butyl alcohol - CH3(CH2)3-OH
    2. butan-2-ol or sec-butanol - CH3CH2CH(CH3)-OH
    3. 2-methyl-propan-1-ol or iso-butanol - (CH3)2CHCH2-OH
    4. 1,1-dimethyl-ethanol or tert-butanol - (CH3)3C-OH


alcohol of butane
  • Swedish: butanol



  1. In the context of "organic chemistry|lang=sv": butanol

Extensive Definition

Butanol or butyl alcohol (sometimes also called biobutanol when produced biologically), is a primary alcohol with a 4 carbon structure and the molecular formula of C4H10O. It belongs to the higher alcohols and branched-chain alcohols.
It is primarily used as a solvent, as an intermediate in chemical synthesis, and as a fuel.
There are four isomeric structures for butanol.


The unmodified term butanol usually refers to the straight chain isomer with the alcohol functional group at the terminal carbon, which is also known as n-butanol or 1-butanol. The straight chain isomer with the alcohol at an internal carbon is sec-butanol or 2-butanol. The branched isomer with the alcohol at a terminal carbon is isobutanol; 2-methyl-1-propanol, and the branched isomer with the alcohol at the internal carbon is tert-butanol; 2-methyl-2-propanol.
Butanol isomers, due to their different structures, have somewhat different melting and boiling points. All are moderately miscible in water, less so than ethanol, and more so than the higher (longer carbon chain) alcohols. This is because all alcohols have a hydroxyl group which makes them polar which in turn tends to promote solubility in water. At the same time the carbon chain of the alcohol resists solubility in water. Methanol, ethanol and propanol, are fully miscible in water because the hydroxyl group predominates while butanol is moderately miscible because of the balance between the two opposing solubility trends.


Like many alcohols, butanol is considered toxic. It has shown low order of toxicity in single dose experiments to laboratory animals. and is considered safe enough for use in cosmetics. Brief, repeated overexposure with the skin can result in depression of the central nervous system, as with other short-chain alcohols. Exposure may also cause severe eye irritation and moderate skin irritation. The main dangers are from prolonged exposure to fumes. In extreme cases this includes suppression of the central nervous system and even death. Under most circumstances, butanol is quickly metabolized to carbon dioxide. It has not been shown to damage DNA or cause cancer.



Butanol is considered as a potential biofuel (butanol fuel). Butanol at 85 percent strength can be used in cars designed for gasoline (petrol) without any change to the engine (unlike 85% ethanol), and it produces more power than ethanol and almost as much power as gasoline, so the miles per gallon will also almost match that of gasoline.

Other uses

Butanol sees use as a solvent for a wide variety of chemical and textile processes, in organic synthesis and as a chemical intermediate. It is also used as a paint thinner and a solvent in other coating applications where it is used as a relatively slow evaporating latent solvent in lacquers and ambient-cured enamels. It finds other uses such as a component of hydraulic and brake fluids.
It is also used as a base for perfumes, but on its own has a highly alcoholic aroma.
Salts of butanol are chemical intermediates for example alkali metal salts of tert-butanol are tert-butoxides.


Since the 1950s, most butanol in the United States is produced commercially from fossil fuels. The most common process starts with propene, which is run through an hydroformylation reaction to form butanal, which is then reduced with hydrogen to butanol. Butanol can also be produced by fermentation of biomass by bacteria. Prior to the 1950s, Clostridium acetobutylicum was used in industrial fermentation processes producing butanol. Research in the past few decades showed results of other microorganisms that can produce butanol through fermentation.


  • Merck Index, 12th Edition, 1575.
butanol in Bosnian: Butanol
butanol in Czech: Butanol
butanol in German: Butanol
butanol in Japanese: ブタノール
butanol in Norwegian: Butanol
butanol in Norwegian Nynorsk: Butanol
butanol in Portuguese: Butanol
butanol in Russian: Бутиловый спирт
butanol in Slovenian: Butanol
butanol in Finnish: Butanoli
butanol in Swedish: Butanol
butanol in Chinese: 丁醇
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