Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, and methanol, or methyl alcohol, are renewable fuel sources, made from plant-based materials ranging from corn and sugar cane to agricultural and timber waste. Outside of carefully controlled environments, such as laboratories, the burning temperature and other characteristics of these materials varies slightly depending on impurities and other factors, and when compared to other fuels, they have relatively similar peak flame and flash point temperatures.
Too Hot to Handle
The peak flame temperature of ethanol is 1,920 degrees Celsius (3,488 degrees Fahrenheit), while the peak flame temperature of methanol is 1,870 degrees Celsius (3,398 degrees Fahrenheit). Ethanol also has a higher flash point than methanol: about at 14 degrees Celsius (57.2 degrees Fahrenheit) to methanol's 11-degree Celsius (51.8 degrees Fahrenheit) flash point. A volatile liquid's flash point is the lowest temperature at which it can vaporize to form an ignitable mixture in the area. The autoignition temperature, the minimum temperature at which the material ignites without a flame or spark present, however, is higher for methanol than ethanol.
- Methanol Institute: How is Methanol Made?
- Renewable Fuels Association: Chemical and Physical Characteristics of Ethanol and Hydrocarbon Fuels
- Iowa State University: Alcohol Fuels (Ethanol and Methanol): Safety
- Concise Encyclopedia of System Safety: Definition of Terms and Concepts; Clifton A. Ericson, II
- Wiley Guide to Chemical Incompatibilities; Richard P. Pohanish et al
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images