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The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

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2.1 Physical properties of ethanol

The size, the shape and the physical properties of ethanol dictate where and how it can move in the body. For instance, ethanol moves quickly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream; a process you will explore later on in this course.

The two most important physical properties of ethanol are:

  1. Ethanol can be completely dissolved in water. Unlike many chemical molecules, when added to water ethanol forms a homogeneous solution (one that is completely mixed) enabling it to be readily carried around in the bloodstream. Because of the solubility of ethanol in water, when a person drinks an alcoholic drink, the ethanol also dissolves easily in the watery blood and body fluids, and so gets transported all around the body, affecting each organ as it goes.
  2. Ethanol boils at a lower temperature than water. You will see the importance of this in Week 6.

Now you know the physical properties of ethanol, you will now look in more detail at how it reacts.