Important Differences between Methanol and Gasoline


Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is a colorless, flammable liquid with the chemical formula CH₃OH. It is the simplest type of alcohol and consists of a methyl group (-CH₃) linked to a hydroxyl group (-OH). Methanol is produced primarily through a chemical reaction involving natural gas, but it can also be obtained from biomass sources like wood. It is used in various industries as a solvent, antifreeze, fuel additive, and as a feedstock in the production of chemicals like formaldehyde and acetic acid. However, methanol is highly toxic to humans and can cause severe health effects, including blindness and organ damage, if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Due to its toxicity, precautions must be taken when handling and using methanol.

Physical Properties:

  • Molecular Formula:


  • Molecular Weight:

32.04 g/mol

  • State:

Methanol is a colorless, flammable liquid at room temperature and pressure.

  • Odor:

It has a slightly sweet, pungent odor.

  • Density:

The density of methanol is approximately 0.7918 g/cm³.

  • Melting Point:

-97.6°C (-143.7°F)

  • Boiling Point:

64.7°C (148.5°F)

  • Solubility in Water:

Methanol is completely miscible with water, meaning it can fully dissolve in it.

  • Vapor Pressure:

The vapor pressure of methanol at 20°C is around 127.1 mm Hg.

  • Viscosity:

It has a relatively low viscosity, allowing it to flow easily.

  • Refractive Index:

The refractive index of methanol is approximately 1.329.

  • Flash Point:

The flash point of methanol is approximately 11.1°C (52°F), making it highly flammable.

  • Autoignition Temperature:

It autoignites at temperatures around 464°C (867°F).

  • Explosive Limits:

Methanol has lower and upper explosive limits of 6.7% and 36.5% by volume in air, respectively.

Chemical Properties:

  • Chemical Structure:

Methanol has a simple chemical structure, consisting of a methyl group (-CH₃) bonded to a hydroxyl group (-OH).

  • Acidity:

It is a weak acid and can act as a proton donor in certain chemical reactions.

  • Reactivity:

Methanol can participate in various chemical reactions, including oxidation, esterification, and reactions involving its hydroxyl group.

  • Flammability:

Methanol is highly flammable and readily undergoes combustion reactions.

  • Solvent Properties:

It is a good solvent for a wide range of organic and inorganic compounds.

  • Toxicity:

Methanol is highly toxic to humans and can cause severe health effects if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

  • Dehydration Reaction:

Methanol can undergo a dehydration reaction to form dimethyl ether in the presence of a strong acid or a dehydrating agent.

  • Reaction with Acids:

Methanol can react with acids to form esters.

  • Reaction with Alkalis:

It can react with alkalis to form alkoxide ions.

  • Oxidation:

Methanol can be oxidized to formaldehyde and further to formic acid or carbon dioxide.

Uses of Methanol

  • Fuel Additive:

Methanol is used as an additive in gasoline to increase octane ratings and reduce emissions. It is also used in biodiesel production.

  • Solvent:

It is a versatile solvent that is used in the production of paints, varnishes, coatings, adhesives, and cleaning products.

  • Antifreeze:

Methanol is used as an antifreeze in automotive cooling systems, especially in regions where low temperatures are a concern.

  • Formaldehyde Production:

The largest application of methanol is as a feedstock in the production of formaldehyde, which is used in the manufacture of plastics, resins, and various other chemicals.

  • Acetic Acid Production:

Methanol is a precursor in the production of acetic acid, which is used in the manufacture of synthetic fibers, textiles, and various chemical compounds.

  • Dimethyl Ether (DME) Production:

Methanol is used in the production of dimethyl ether, which serves as a propellant in aerosol products and as an alternative fuel.

  • Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) Production:

MTBE, a gasoline additive, is produced from methanol and is used to enhance octane ratings and reduce air pollution.

  • Plastics and Resins:

Methanol is used in the production of various plastics and resins, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and formaldehyde-based resins.

  • Energy Storage:

Methanol can be used as a fuel in fuel cells, providing a means of energy storage and conversion.

  • Medical and Pharmaceutical Applications:

It is used in some pharmaceutical formulations and as an ingredient in some medical and cosmetic products.

  • Denatured Alcohol:

Methanol is used in the production of denatured alcohol, which is used for industrial, medical, and cosmetic purposes.

  • Woodworking:

In woodworking, methanol is used for wood staining, finishing, and cleaning.

  • Laboratory and Analytical Applications:

Methanol is a common solvent in laboratories and is used for various analytical techniques.

  • Waste Treatment:

It can be used in wastewater treatment processes.

  • Deicing and Dehumidifying:

In some applications, methanol is used for deicing aircraft and dehumidifying fuel tanks.


Gasoline, often referred to as petrol in some regions, is a highly flammable liquid fuel primarily used in internal combustion engines. It is derived from crude oil through a refining process known as fractional distillation. Gasoline is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons, with varying chain lengths and structures, making it a versatile fuel source. It is known for its high energy density, which allows for efficient energy release during combustion. Gasoline powers vehicles such as cars, motorcycles, and small engines like lawnmowers and chainsaws. It is a crucial component of modern transportation systems and plays a significant role in the global economy. However, its combustion releases pollutants that contribute to air pollution and climate change, leading to ongoing efforts to develop more sustainable alternatives.

Chemical Properties:

  • Chemical Composition:

Gasoline is a mixture of various hydrocarbons, primarily alkanes, cycloalkanes, and aromatic compounds.

  • Combustibility:

Gasoline is highly flammable and readily undergoes combustion reactions in the presence of oxygen.

  • Octane Rating:

Gasoline’s octane rating is a measure of its resistance to knocking or pinging during combustion in internal combustion engines.

  • Hydrocarbon Structure:

Gasoline is composed mainly of hydrocarbons, which consist of hydrogen and carbon atoms in varying chain lengths and structures.

  • Boiling Range:

Gasoline is a mixture of compounds with a range of boiling points, typically between 30°C to 200°C.

  • Vapor Pressure:

It has a relatively high vapor pressure at ambient temperatures, allowing for easy evaporation.

  • Reactivity with Oxygen:

Gasoline can undergo combustion reactions, reacting with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water.

  • Reactivity with Oxidizers:

It can react with oxidizing agents, potentially leading to hazardous situations.

Physical Properties:

  • State:

Gasoline is a liquid at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.

  • Color:

It is typically colorless to pale yellow.

  • Odor:

Gasoline has a distinctive, pungent odor.

  • Density:

Gasoline is less dense than water, with a density typically around 0.72 – 0.78 g/cm³.

  • Viscosity:

It has low viscosity, allowing it to flow easily.

  • Flash Point:

Gasoline has a relatively low flash point, which is the minimum temperature at which it can ignite when exposed to an open flame.

  • Boiling Point Range:

Gasoline has a boiling point range between approximately 30°C to 200°C.

  • Solubility:

Gasoline is immiscible with water, meaning it does not readily dissolve in water.

  • Miscibility with Other Solvents:

It is miscible with other hydrocarbon-based solvents.

  • Evaporation Rate:

Gasoline has a relatively high evaporation rate, which contributes to its flammability.

  • Freezing Point:

Gasoline does not have a specific freezing point as it is a mixture of compounds with varying freezing points.

  • Surface Tension:

Gasoline has a relatively low surface tension.

Uses of Gasoline

  • Transportation:

Gasoline is the most common fuel for internal combustion engines in automobiles, motorcycles, and small engines like lawnmowers and chainsaws.

  • Power Generation:

Gasoline-powered generators are used as backup power sources in homes, businesses, and events.

  • Recreational Vehicles:

Gasoline powers recreational vehicles (RVs), boats, jet skis, and other recreational vehicles.

  • Small Engines:

Gasoline is used to fuel small engines, such as those in lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and portable generators.

  • Agriculture:

Gasoline powers agricultural equipment like tractors, tillers, and irrigation pumps.

  • Construction and Industry:

Many construction and industrial machines, such as forklifts and portable generators, run on gasoline.

  • Power Tools:

Handheld power tools like chainsaws, hedge trimmers, and drills are often powered by gasoline engines.

  • Emergency Services:

Gasoline fuels vehicles used by emergency services, including police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks.

  • Recreational Activities:

Gasoline powers off-road vehicles like dirt bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles used for recreational purposes.

  • Boating:

Gasoline is used to fuel various types of boats and watercraft.

  • Aviation:

Some small aircraft use aviation gasoline (avgas) as their primary fuel source.

  • Construction Equipment:

Gasoline powers various construction equipment, such as bulldozers, compactors, and cement mixers.

  • Heating and Cooking:

In some remote areas, gasoline is used in special stoves or burners for heating and cooking.

  • Racing and Motorsports:

High-performance vehicles, particularly those used in motorsports, often use specialized racing fuels derived from gasoline.

  • Chemical Industry:

Gasoline is used as a feedstock in the production of various chemicals.

  • As a Cleaning Agent:

Gasoline can be used as a solvent for cleaning purposes, although this usage is discouraged due to safety and environmental concerns.

Important Differences between Methanol and Gasoline

Basis of Comparison



Chemical Formula CH₃OH Complex mixture of hydrocarbons
Source Can be produced from natural gas, biomass, or synthesis gas Derived from crude oil through refining
Renewable Yes, if produced from biomass or renewable sources No, it is a fossil fuel
Octane Rating Lower (around 95-100) Higher (around 87-93)
Energy Content Lower (less energy per unit volume) Higher energy content per unit volume
Combustion Products CO2 and water vapor CO2, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter
Production Process Chemical synthesis, often derived from natural gas Petroleum distillation and refining
Environmental Impact Lower greenhouse gas emissions when produced from renewable sources Higher greenhouse gas emissions due to fossil origin
Toxicity Highly toxic to humans Generally not highly toxic
Use in Flex-Fuel Vehicles Not commonly used as a primary fuel Commonly used in flexible-fuel vehicles
Cost Can be more expensive due to production process Generally cheaper per gallon
Availability Limited compared to gasoline Widely available
Safety Concerns Highly toxic and poses risks if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through skin Flammable, but less toxic than methanol

Important Similarities between Methanol and Gasoline

  • Flammability:

Both methanol and gasoline are highly flammable substances, making them suitable as fuels for internal combustion engines.

  • Use as Fuel Additives:

Both can be used as fuel additives to enhance certain properties of the fuel, such as octane rating, combustion efficiency, and emissions control.

  • Transportation Fuels:

Both methanol and gasoline are used as transportation fuels in vehicles with internal combustion engines.

  • Solvents:

They are both used as solvents in various industrial applications, including in the production of paints, varnishes, coatings, and cleaning products.

  • Production from Hydrocarbons:

Both methanol and gasoline can be derived from hydrocarbon sources, although their production processes are different.

  • Energy Content:

Both can release energy when combusted, making them suitable for use in engines and as sources of power.

  • Environmental Impact:

Both fuels have environmental implications, with concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution associated with their combustion.

  • Flame Temperature:

The combustion of both methanol and gasoline generates high flame temperatures.

  • Compatibility with Internal Combustion Engines:

Both fuels are compatible with internal combustion engines, with appropriate adjustments or in flexible-fuel vehicles.

  • Use as Blending Agents:

Both methanol and gasoline are often blended together to create specialized fuels with specific properties.

  • Availability:

Both methanol and gasoline are widely available, although their availability can vary by region.

  • Consumer Use:

Both fuels are readily accessible to consumers at gas stations for powering vehicles.

  • Safety Considerations:

Both fuels require proper handling and safety measures due to their flammable nature.

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