Detecting Ethanol in Water and Air

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Ethanol, commonly known as alcohol, drinking alcohol, and ethyl alcohol, is the principal type of alcohol present in alcoholic beverages.

Drinks with 0.5% or more ethanol are known as alcoholic. When people talk about it, they frequently just call it alcohol. It is used as a solvent as it is capable of dissolving many other chemicals and is not extremely toxic.

Ethanol, or alcohol, is the intoxicating agent found in wine, liquor and beer. Alcohol is produced by fermentation of yeast, starches and sugars.1 Fruits like grapes, and grains such as wheat and barley are most frequently used for wine, liquors and beer. Other plants, such as sugar cane or the cactus may be used in the production of liquor.

Hazardous Effects of Ethanol

Prolonged alcohol misuse is associated with cardiovascular and liver disease, cancer and nervous system damage and also psychiatric problems such as anxiety, antisocial personality disorder and depression. Once the body develops a dependence on alcohol, a sudden cessation of its intake is likely to generate withdrawal symptoms.

Mixing alcohol with caffeine, either by adding liquor to energy drinks or in premixed drinks has become a common way for younger crowds to drink alcohol. This combination is extremely lethal and a lot riskier than whiskey.

Excessive use of alcohol can result in alcoholism or alcohol dependence. There are four cardinal symptoms in alcoholism: craving, physical dependence, loss of control and tolerance.

Binge drinking and alcohol use among teens is a major public health concern. In 1999, alcohol use among high school students was reported in one out of every two students. In 2009, current alcohol use rates among high school students reduced to 42%, with 24% reporting episodic heavy or binge drinking. No amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe in pregnancy.

Alcohol is rapidly transferred from the mother’s bloodstream to the fetus. Alcohol can be toxic to the developing baby, not only in the first three months of pregnancy when vital organs are developing, but also at any time, as brain development continues all through pregnancy. Damage can also take place early in pregnancy before a woman could even know that she is pregnant. Although there is no known safe amount of alcohol that a woman can drink, the risk of miscarriage, growth retardation, mental defects and birth defects increase the more alcohol a pregnant woman consumes in one setting and how frequently she drinks overall.

Ethanol is considered to be at the lower limit of detectable compounds which can be analyzed by zNose® because of its low molecular weight and high volatility.

Detecting ethanol in water and air is easy and fast using zNose® electronic nose or portable gas chromatograph. Concentrations well into the low part-per-million range can be quantified with good accuracy and precision even though ethanol is at the lower limit of detectable compounds. As ethanol is extremely soluble in water, headspace measurements are best carried out with water samples elevated to at least 40 °C. Use of a PTFE inlet filter is recommended in order to prevent water droplets from forming and entering the instrument, and then possibly damaging the sensitive vapor detector.


This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Electronic Sensor Technology.

For more information on this source, please visit Electronic Sensor Technology.

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