Is there a potential reaction that would occur between ethanol and aluminum? If so, would it potentially create anything toxic?

  • $\begingroup$ Yes it is, it is an industrial way to prepare aluminiuum isopropoxide. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Feb 4 '16 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ In what situation? Normally there's no significant reaction. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Feb 4 '16 at 16:16

The reaction of aluminum and ethanol forms aluminum triethoxide, $\ce{ Al(OC2H5)3}$, but the reaction is fairly slow at room temperature, particularly if the aluminum is anodized. In the presence of any moisture it decomposes into aluminum hydroxide and ethanol.

The Safety Data Sheet indicates that aluminum triethoxide is both flammable and can cause "severe skin burns and eye damage", but in atmospheric conditions it likely decomposes as quickly as it forms, so the main adverse effect will be the corrosion of the aluminum, covering it with a white crust of $\ce{Al2O3}$ (I've seen this happen to an aluminum lid on a container used for ethanol).

UNH has posted a chart that shows that anodized aluminum is resistant to ethanol attack, but does not state at what temperature, so you may have to experiment to see if it suitable in your application.

BTW, many other alcohols react in a similar manner, such as isopropanol, which forms aluminium isopropoxide with aluminum.


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