By Alexandra Nelson



Isopropyl alcohol, also known as isopropanol (IPA), is a transparent and flammable liquid, with antibacterial properties and an alcohol/acetone-like odor. It mixes with most solvents, especially water. IPA is one of the most abundant solvents worldwide, and it is also utilized as a chemical intermediate for most chemical industries.

IPA is the major component of rubbing alcohol and regular household items, such as cleaners, disinfectants, and hand sanitizers.

The industry

The isopropyl alcohol market is divided into three categories: by application, end-user industry, and geography. By application, the demand of isopropyl alcohol is segmented into: chemical processes agent, preparation solvent, cleaning and drying agent, coating and dye solvent, intermediate, and other applications. By end-user industry, the market of this component is segmented into: cosmetic and personal care, pharmaceutical, electronics, paints and coatings, chemical, and other end-user industries.

Uses of Isopropyl Alcohol by Application


IPA is a popular solvent used in:

  • Personal care and household products like general-purpose cleaners, disinfectants, and room sprays
  • Paints and inks like nitrocellulose-based lacquers and thinners for wood finishing and adhesives
  • Pharmaceuticals as an extractive solvent
  • Medical applications for sterilizing and disinfecting surfaces in clinics, preserving biological specimens, and cleaning wipes used for sanitizing purposes
  • Screen wash and de-icers
  • In the food industry in processes like pectin extraction
  • Foundry resins

Cleaning and drying agent

  • Manufacture of electronic parts, for metals and photographic films and papers, in glass cleaners, liquid soaps, detergents, and aerosols

Coating and dye solvent

  • Synthetic polymers such as phenolic varnishes and lacquers
  • Cement, primers, paints, and inks

Isopropyl Alcohol and the End-user Industry

IPA has many uses in the pharmaceutical field. The most common is as a raw material, where this alcohol is used to produce critical pharmaceutical intermediates, such as 7-amino-cephalosporanic acid, iohexol, and chloramphenicol. Isopropyl alcohol can also be utilized to produce medicine like amoxicillin, piracetam, and isopropyl aluminum.

In 2010, the pharmaceutical industry consumed about 46,000 tons of isopropyl alcohol. In 2015, the demand of IPA in the same field reached 78,000 tons, with an average annual growth rate of 8%. The same average of increment was seen in the following years and nowadays.

Chemicals derivates

IPA is mostly utilized for making downstream derivatives like:

  • Isopropyl ether, found in the cosmetics and personal care industry
  • Isopropyl esters, a solvent used for cellulosic and inks
  • Isopropyl amines, for the manufacture of glyphosate herbicides
  • Isopropyl alcohol reacts with carbon disulphide producing sodium isopropyl xanthate, a weed killer.
  • IPA reacts with titanium tetrachloride and aluminum metal, producing titanium and aluminum isopropoxides, respectively, to form a catalyst and later a chemical reagent that acts as a dihydrogen donor.

Production of Isopropyl Alcohol

As a raw material, the demand of isopropyl alcohol in the market is increasing yearly due to its high versatility; it is considered one of the most used compounds in the chemical industry nowadays.

Table 1 below shows an example of the cumulative average in past years of the production of Isopropyl alcohol and sales tones.

Table 1. Production increase of IPA worldwide

According to industry estimates, around 72% of isopropyl alcohol is consumed by the pharmaceutical industry, followed by the coatings and ink industry at 10%, and chemical intermediates at 10%. The remaining balance of 8% is used in diverse sectors, including agrochemicals, thinners, metal treatment, and the electronics industry.

Global scenario

The total global production of IPA is estimated to be around 2.7-mtpa, only in North America, East Asia, and Europe. The United States is the world’s largest producer of this alcohol, with an annual capacity of 0.84-mtpa, accounting for about one-third of global capacity.

Isopropyl alcohol is considered an essential product in the industry in the United States, with an expected growth rate of 1.5 % per year since 2015.

The strongest end-use markets of isopropyl alcohol are in isopropyl amines, household, cosmetic, personal care products, and pharmaceuticals, growing at about 2.8% per year. These three segments collectively account for 34% of IPA demand in the US. The largest outlet for IPA in the US is solvents, accounting for 45% of IPA use in the country. This sector is expected to grow modestly, by approximately 1.2% per year, limited by regulations covering volatile organic compounds.

Isopropyl Alcohol offering at Lab Alley

Various grades of isopropyl alcohol, 70%, 91%, 99%, and 99.8%, are commercially available at Lab Alley, including USP, ACS reagent, and ACS semiconductor. Lab Alley distributes isopropyl alcohol in the following proof and grades:

Isopropyl alcohol is considered a versatile organic compound used widely as a solvent and as a cleaning fluid. It is the most commonly used liquid for cleaning and is found in millions of products worldwide. It is used in manufacturing acetone as well as glycerol and isopropyl acetate. A solvent for many oils, alkaloids, gums, and resins, it also serves as a de-icing agent for liquid fuels. This chemical compound is utilized in extraction processes, as a dehydrating agent, and as a laboratory reagent.

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