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Wood vinegar and wood alcohol. Answered

I've recently been doing research about how to make my own charcoal and I found that as a by-product that either wood vinegar or wood alcohol is made. One of the pages I found in looking for information was https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Wood-Gas-Wood-Alcohol/ and it led me to believe that what is produced i alcohol, but more research seemed to say it was actually wood vinegar that was produced. The problem is that Everything I've found is conflicting as to which it is that is produced. My understanding is that the two substances aren't the same, but that there is some methanol in wood vinegar. What I want to know is which it is that is produced, and if it's wood vinegar, can it be converted to wood alcohol, or burned as it is. 


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6 years ago

Both are produced;

You are talking partial oxidation reactions. Methanol is a partial oxidation reaction that occurs when free oxygen is limited in a combustion reaction. Without breaking this step down a whole lot, Carbon ends up forming chemical bonds because there's not enough oxygen to strip the hydrogen and all the carbon out of the carbon source.

Depending on reaction conditions, the methanol will go on to further oxidize and as long as oxygen is still limited, it will simply form carbon-containing compounds like vinegar (acetic acid).

Vinegar can burn, but it has a lower heat value then methanol. More bonds are formed then are broken when you burn vinegar, so the end result is less heat and less pressure (if you're compressing the wood vinegar), making it slightly less desirable. I could be wrong, but i believe that it does not sustain combustion on it's own.

To preserve the methanol, you need to cool things down. you can do this with heat spreader, liquid cooling, or by using catalysts to aid in the formation of methanol at a lower temperature. Which strategy you use depends largely on application and what materials you have access to.

Since you're actually harvesting quantities of vinegar and methanol, you probably would do well to use a catalyst. Something easy like zinc oxide and powdered aluminum blended together could prevent loss of methanol. you'd have to play with the blend of aluminum to zinc oxide to get the mix right though.

Easiest solution is add more liquid cooling to distilling rig. increasing the length of condenser and decreasing the temperature of the coolant as it makes that first initial contact will greatly help increase methanol output.