Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Alcohol Powder... How?

SsgtHAZMAT - 6-6-2007 at 20:18

Alcohol Powder

Ok guys, how do you do this??

not_important - 6-6-2007 at 20:30

Most likely encapsulated. There's several polymers that will dissolve in water but won't in low water content alcohol, so the micro-balloons of alcohol would dissolve when they hit water.

Where did you see it?

SsgtHAZMAT - 6-6-2007 at 20:37

It all over fox news It reminds me of that Steven Wright joke, "I have some powered water, but I don't know what to add.",2933,278519,00.html

Sauron - 6-6-2007 at 20:49

It's seems to me a lot of media hype.

And the gimmick is that supposedly this product evades both excise tax on alcoholic beverages and legal restrictions on sale of alcoholic beverages to minors (anyone <16 in Holland where this "invention" is centered.) The sheer idiocy of this, is the fallacy that such evasion is somehow permanent. In reality if such a loophole exists, want to bet how fast it is slammed shut by the legislatures of the world?

This flies in the face of both a major government revenue source everywhere in the world (the "sin tax" on potable alcohol) and also Big Liquor. Believe me, these kids are going to get an expensive education in the Golden Rule: He who has the gelt, makes the rules.

As to the technical question you posed, I do not know. Sodium ethoxide and citric acid?? That would get you sodium citrate and ethanol. The sodium ethoxide is a very strong based and very sensitive to moisture, forming alcohol and lye. I don't see how such a mix could ever be deemed to be safe. Of course this is just a wild guess.

I also believe that ANY such mix, of any composition, would come up against the very serious prejudice against synthetic alcohol vs alcohol produced by fermentation. This prejudice is so strong that it might as well have the force of law. All potable alcohol is from fermented origin, be it grain, sugar, starches, molasses, tapioca, rice, or even whey, and the fermentations vary as to yeasts, or fungus in the case of sake, but they are ALL still fermentations, and ethanol from a dry chemical powder is not. The food regulators and the liquor industry are going to crap in the hats of these young "inventors" - big time. Watch.

smuv - 6-6-2007 at 21:44

I have wondered this as well.

probably more feasible than sodium ethoxide...a solid ethyl ester that easily hydrolyzes forming ethanol and the corresponding carboxylic acid. This hydrolysis could occur, upon contact with water (unlikely), in the consumers tummy, or the powder could include an acid/base which catalyzes the hydrolysis or possibly even a transesterfication when added to water.

Or maybe it just is...encapsulated ethanol

Sauron - 6-6-2007 at 22:07

Whatever, it is still sold for human consumption so it will come under (EU!) f&B nightmare regulations and there is NO evading THAT and there will be no evading taxation as well, no gimmick is going to thwart the excise man. The liquor game is a rigged one in favor of the axis of Government and Big Liquor and few interlopers are tolerated. The like of Bols and Ricard will eat these guys for a light snack.

not_important - 6-6-2007 at 22:27

Dextrin with added alcohol

Flowable powders are prepared containing a mixture of food flavoring ingredients, and particulates of expanded dextrin having a bulk density of from about 0.05 to about 0.30 grams/cubic centimeter, a dextrose equivalent of from about 5 to 15 and a moisture content of about 2% to 6%, and having sorbed in the dextrin particulates an aqueous alcohol solution to provide from about 30% to 60% by weight ethanol in the resultant ethanol-containing dextrin particulates. The powders are stable when hermetically packaged and are particularly qualified as alcoholic beverage forming compositions and flavoring materials since the ethanol-containing dextrin particulates readily dissolve in cold water to form clear low-viscosity, colorless liquids.

Sauron - 7-6-2007 at 00:00

All right, but then this is just legerdemain, a parlor trick, slight of hand. The ethanol they put into the dextrin must be potable ethanol and that means tax was paid on it already. It can't be synthetic alcohol and it can't be denatured alcohol.

They are still in the regulatory box and if there's a tax loophole it will be slammed shut double quick. Same with the sales to minors issue. There's a good reason why spirits are not sold to minors and that reason applies to this product as well, any legal loophole will shut faster than a miser's wallet in Scotland.

JohnWW - 7-6-2007 at 01:30

Originally posted by Sauron(cut) Same with the sales to minors issue. There's a good reason why spirits are not sold to minors and that reason applies to this product as well, any legal loophole will shut faster than a miser's wallet in Scotland.

Good reason not to sell alcohol? But the stuff is good for you! It helps prevent the build-up of fatty cholesterol-containing deposits in the arteries, and spirits also relieve nasal congestion and asthma. Scotch whisky is particularly effective.

not_important - 7-6-2007 at 05:53

The product could be made in a country which does not heavily tax potable alcohol, or at least when sold at the wholesale level. So many of the alcohol regulation laws are late 19th century, all based on liquids and fluid measures, that the powder may fall through cracks until they are patched. Which, as was said, will happen very quickly because there are no greater problems in the world than that.

Originally posted by Sauron... There's a good reason why spirits are not sold to minors ...

Indeed, read your Dickens and note the use of alcohol by minors during the period Britain was becoming the industrial power of the world. After the Evangelicals clamped down on that, the Empire started on its way down.

Sauron - 7-6-2007 at 06:14

Making this "product" in a third country (outside EU) would solve little as it would shift the product from being an internal EU one to being an import and that would be worse if anything for compliance purposes.

The Dickensian social commentary you are talking about was taking place at a time when the traditional tipple of the vast majority of the population, which was beer and ale, and to a lesser extent wine (in UK) was being shifted by the relatively recent emergence of gin on a large scale. As you probably know gin is not like brandy or whiskey. It is neutral spirits (like vodka) flavored by codistillation with various botanicals (notably juniper) and this is very cheap to manufacture and very profitable.

The churches railed against it in England and blamed gin for a lot of social problems.

Just as in Europe at same time absinthe was demonized and in the US rum was demonized (quite literally it was called Demon Rum).

Anyway I am not campaigning against alcohol, I love the stuff, and was briefly in the business myself (making Absinthe) although diabetes has ended my own drinking days.

woelen - 7-6-2007 at 06:46

This is the work of a few Dutch students from the city of Boxtel.

Unfortunately I only have a dutch link:

This powder can be used to make an alcoholic beverage, with appr. 3% of alcohol, when ready to drink. This powder will be made commercially soon, and the price for one sachet of powder, good for one drink, will be appr. EUR 1.50 (which is appr. $2).

The article does not tell what technology is used, but on a dutch forum I have read about alcohol, incorporated into a crystal lattice of some sugar, much like water can be part of the crystal lattice of many compound (so-called intercalation compounds, not to be confused with coordinatively bound water).

Sauron - 7-6-2007 at 07:03

@Woelen, what is the price of a beer in a grocery in Holland? Or a bottle of a wine cooler like Spy or Barardi Breezer?

(The alcohol in wine coolers comes from whey and is very cheap off-tasting stuff that can only be used in these products and in cream liqueuers like Baileys).

Of course one is sympathetic with the enterprise of students but I fail to see how these students can afford to deal with the massive burdensome and largely incomprehensible EU food & beverage regulatory nightmare. If they target the under 16 maket they are asking for trouble and they hinge everything on avoidance of excise tax they will have the business life of a mayfly.

By courting all this media hype they have guaranteed themselves maximum attention from the technocrats in Bruxelles.

garage chemist - 7-6-2007 at 07:44

Its cyclodextrines that are able to absorb alcohol and stay as a dry powder. Thats the secret behind the alcohol powder.
Encapsulation would be too expensive for a simple consumer product like this. Also, what should be used as the encapsulation material that dissolves with water? I cant imagine that encapsulating alcohol would be feasible.

It might become a party gag, if the powder can be snorted... but the dextrin would probably clog your nose.

[Edited on 7-6-2007 by garage chemist]

Ozone - 7-6-2007 at 09:29

Perhaps the "solid EtOH" is something like paraldehyde (acetaldehyde trimer) and a little acid. Under acidic aqueous conditions there should be a net release of acetaldehyde.

Since acetaldehyde is the secondary oxidative metabolite of ethanol (and is the "active" ingredient), paraldehyde could be used to deliver ethanol "equivalent" dosages.

Just a thought,


unionised - 7-6-2007 at 09:48

"(and is the "active" ingredient), "
Sure about that? I'm pretty sure that alcohol works just as well with alcoholics who's livers are too shot to convert it to acetaldehyde; also I think the kinetics of drinking would go wrong if it were acetladehyde that did the damage.
Acetaldehyde is responsible for a part of the hangover and the general damage done to the body but it's the alcohol istelf that has the effect people pay for.

garage chemist - 7-6-2007 at 09:53

I tell you, its cyclodextrines, nothing that contains acetaldehyde or paraldehyde would ever be approved for food purposes.
Acetyldehyde is a cancer-suspect chemical, and thats the reason its difficult to buy here. It would NEVER be allowed to be added to food deliberately.

S.C. Wack - 7-6-2007 at 13:47

The process given was used for the older German product. Labelled ingredients of that:

This new product is made by the same process?

woelen - 8-6-2007 at 10:14

The price of beer of course depends on brand, but general beer (called "pils" in the Netherlands) with 5% of alcohol has a price range of EUR 0.25 to EUR 0.50 per bottle of 300 ml. So, the sachets with powdered alcohol still are more expensive, but for certain applications (e.g. backpacking and wanting to take with you lots of drinks :D) the higher price will not be a real problem.

Breezers etc. are much more expensive over here, but that of course has to do with branding and status.

[Edited on 8-6-07 by woelen]

Nerro - 8-6-2007 at 12:50

330mL actually ;) (I work in a liquor store and no Iwon't buy you cheap whiskey :P)

If you want a decent beer €0,50 sounds about right. (That's for Hertog Jan)

About the branding you're entirely right, Whiskey can't be very expensive to produce but it can cost anything up to €350! Just like some Champagnes cost €50 and some others which are almost exactly as good "only" €20, it's almost all marketing. I once asked my boss what the real difference is between a €15 bottle of wine and a €300 bottle of wine and he said "about fifteen euro's, why?" :P

Ozone - 8-6-2007 at 16:35

It appears true that acetaldehyde is (although intoxicating in its own right) the illness principle, the self limiter that says "too much booze, Barfola". So, not such a good idea.

Cyclodextrin (alpha) has an appropriate cavity size, but the internal cavity for the guest-host relationship is hydrophobic. Good (as I have seen with b-CD) for benzaldehyde, not so good for ethanol. The molecular weight difference (vs. mol/mol) is large which means that you would need a *whole lot* of powder to get your ounce of ethanol.

The precursor idea is not a bad one, though. I have though some more about this and wonder about a low molecular weight poly-ethylmethacrylate. This could be partially hydrolized to yield a water soluble species which could hydrolize more in subsequent (acidic or alkaline) solution to give the poly-acrylic acid and ethanol. Since, in this case, many molar equivalents of ethanol could be bound, we might get a better "bang for the buck".

I'd rather have beer:D (144oz is about, em, 8.56-12.00 euros here)!


franklyn - 10-6-2007 at 15:24

I'm holding out for solid fusel oil , pass the pepper.

Sauron - 11-6-2007 at 02:14

Anyone remember a Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedy called LOVER COME BACK?

Tony Randall plays a chemit assigned to create a product already being advertised, nature unspecified. So he created a chocolate mint candy with the intoxicating effect of a triple vodka martini.

Much more interesting concept than this lame 3.2 yoohoo these schoolboys have come up with in Holland. Just what the world needs, lyophilized near-beer.