In China, archaeological evidence suggests that true alcohol distillation began during the Jin (1115-1234) or Southern Song (1127-1279) dynasties. A still dating back to the 12th century was discovered at an archaeological site in Qinglong City, Hebei Province. In India, true alcohol distillation was introduced from the Middle East and was widely used in the Delhi Sultanate by the 14th century.
In 1796, German-Russian chemist Johann Tobias Lowitz obtained pure ethanol by mixing partially purified ethanol (ethanol-water azeotrope) with excess anhydrous alkali and then distilling the mixture at low temperatures. Antoine Lavoisier, a French chemist, described ethanol as a compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and nicolas Theodor de Saussure determined its chemical formula in 1807. Fifty years later, Archibald Scott Couper published a structural formula for ethanol. It was one of the first established formulas.
Ethanol was first synthesized by Michael Faraday in 1825. He found that sulfuric acid could absorb large quantities of gas. He supplied the resulting solution to English chemist Henry Hennell, who discovered it contained “sulfonic acid” (ethyl hydrogen sulfate) in 1826. In 1828, Hennell and French chemist Georges-Simon Serullas independently discovered that sulfonic acid could be broken down into ethanol. Thus, in 1825, Faraday stumbled upon the possibility of producing ethanol from ethylene (a component of gas) through acid-catalyzed hydration, a process similar to the current industrial ethanol synthesis.
Ethanol was used as lamp fuel in the United States as early as 1840, but taxes on industrial alcohol during the Civil War made this use uneconomic. The tax was abolished in 1906. Its use as an automotive fuel dates back to 1908, and the Model T Ford was able to run on either gasoline (gasoline) or ethanol. It fuels some of the spirit lamps.
Ethanol for industrial use is usually produced from ethylene. Ethanol is widely used as a solvent in substances for human contact or consumption, including fragrances, flavorings, colorings and medicines. In chemistry, it is both a solvent and a raw material for the synthesis of other products. It has a long history as a fuel for heat and light, and more recently for internal combustion engines.