n-Butanol or n-butyl alcohol or normal butanol is a primary alcohol with a 4-carbon structure and the chemical formula C4H9OH. Its isomers include isobutanol, 2-butanol, and tert-butanol. Butanol is one of the group of “fusel alcohols” (from the German for “bad liquor”), which have more than two carbon atoms and have significant solubility in water.
n-Butanol occurs naturally as a minor product of the fermentation of sugars and other carbohydrates, and is present in many foods and beverages. It is also a permitted artificial flavorant in the United States, used in butter, cream, fruit, rum, whiskey, ice cream and ices, candy, baked goods and cordials. It is also used in a wide range of consumer products.
The largest use of n-butanol is as an industrial intermediate, particularly for the manufacture of butyl acetate (itself an artificial flavorant and industrial solvent). It is a petrochemical, manufactured from propylene and usually used close to the point of manufacture. Estimated production figures for 1997 are: United States 784,000 tonnes; Western Europe 575,000 tonnes; Japan 225,000 tonnes.
Constituting 85% of its use, n-butanol is mainly used in the production of varnishes. It is a popular solvent, e.g. for nitrocellulose. A variety of butyl esters are used as solvents, e.g. butoxyethanol. Many plasticizers are based on butyl esters, e.g., dibutyl phthalate. The monomer butyl acrylate is used to produce polymers. It is the precursor to n-butylamines.