The simplest alcohol, in the chemical sense of the word. Its is CH3OH. It is toxic and causes blindness. What is commonly called alcohol is actually ethanol.

It is sometimes used as a fuel for rc cars among other things. It is toxic in large quantities and can lead to death, and can cause blindness in small quantities.

It is most commonly found mixed with ethanol at 5% concentration to create methylated spirits.


Kind of surprising this was a nodeshell ...
The mechanism by which methanol causes blindness is as follows :-

There is a enzyme (an alcohol dehydrogenase) in the eye which is responsible for turning retinol ; an alcohol, into retinal ; an aldehyde. This enzyme also works on other alcohols, and with methanol gives methanal, a very toxic compound. As little as 10 grams of methanol can cause blindness....

There is however a treatment if you catch the poisoning fast enough. Because the dehydrogenating enzyme also works with ethanol, you can prevent a build up of methanal by giving a large dose of ethanol to the patient. This uses up the enzyme in the eyes, reducing the amount of methanal it can produce. As the methanol is water soluble it's eventually excreted by the body, helped no doubt by the diuretic effect of ethanol.

You're then left with probably one of the worst hangovers ever experienced by anyone, ever!

Source :- The Right Chemistry, Jeffery Hancock, Hodder & Stoughton ISBN 0-340-70194-3
Methanol (CH3OH)is an alcohol compound. Alcohols are carbon compounds where a hydroxy group (-OH) has been substituted for a hydrogen atom. Methanol is the simplest alcohol because it has only 1 carbon atom. Methonal is used as a polar solvent and is completely miscible with water.

Methanol is produced conventionally through a process which takes methane and combines it with high pressure steam inside the methane steam reformer. There are actually six processing steps: feed gas purification, steam reforming, heat recovery (steam generation), compression, methanol synthesis, and distillation. Unfortunately, the MSR is a complex and intrinsicly unreliable piece of equipment. It is a tribute to those involved in the design of today's MSRs that they have managed to engineer them to be more reliable and less troublesome in service. Alternative processes and sources are being actively sought.

It is noted that methanol attacks the following materials: Copper Alloys, carbon steel, Tantalum, Titanium and Viton.

Properties of Methanol:

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References:
CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 74th edition, 1994-1994, David R. Lide, Editor in Chief
Chemistry, Experiment and Theory, Bernice G. Segal, John Wiley & Sons, 1985
Organic Chemistry, 5th edition, Stanley H. Pine, McGraw-Hill, 1987
Wika Handbook, Alexander von Beckerath et al, Caruna Druck, 1995
http://www.methanol.org/pdfFrame.cfm?pdf=Synetix_Methanol_Production.pdf

Although it is toxic, the human body can handle low concentrations of methanol with no ill effects. (Methanol is present in many cooked vegetables, and the artificial sweetener in diet soft drinks breaks down into methanol during digestion.) Methanol becomes poisonous only when it overwhelms the body's capacity to remove it.

Methanol is used in a number of consumer products, including paint strippers, duplicator fluid, model airplane fuel, and dry gas. Most windshield wiper fluids are fifty percent methanol.

Large amounts of methanol are also used in the creation of formaldehyde which is used as an antiseptic, disinfectant, and preservative for biological materials.

There are 18 methanol production plants in the United States with a total annual capacity of over 2.6 billion gallons per year. Worldwide, over 90 methanol plants have the capacity to produce over 11 billion gallons of methanol annually. The global methanol industry generates $12 billion in economic activity each year, while creating nearly 100,000 jobs.

Emissions from methanol cars are low in reactive hydrocarbons (which form smog) and in toxic compounds. Methanol-fueled trucks and buses emit almost no particulate matter (which cause smoke and odor, and can also be carcinogenic), and much less nitrogen oxides than their diesel-fueled counterparts.

Methanol is much less flammable than gasoline and results in less severe fires when it does ignite.

Methanol is a high-octane fuel that offers excellent acceleration and vehicle power. It reduces tailpipe emissions and lowers our dependence on imported oil.

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