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Thread: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

  1. #1

    Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    Hi everyone!

    New to this forum and wet plate collodion. I actually had a question regarding the alcohol that many aspects of collodion chemistry call for. I understand I'm meant to be using denatured alcohol but this is where I get confused. As far as I can tell, denatured alcohol is an American term, I'm in Australia and can't find what the equivalent would be. According to Google, it's 'Methylated Spirits' but I have been turned away from that due to too many unknown additives. Just wondering if anyone has a preference of alcohol? Thanks, Elliot

  2. #2
    Zebra
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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    I use Everclear or its equivalent.

    Monty

  3. #3
    Eric Woodbury
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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    Ethanol is what you want. Denatured means it's been poisoned with a splash of methanol (wood alcohol), so you shouldn't drink it.
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  4. #4
    ghostcount's Avatar
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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    People have used this as an alternative. I don't have experience with it as I've only used Everclear but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work.

    Moda Flame 1 Quart Bio-Ethanol Fireplace Fuel 12 Bottles https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FHLGU3S..._YCQ6xbV1S6N2W
    "Sex is like maths, add the bed, subtract the clothes, divide the whoo hoo and hope you don't multiply." - Leather jacket guy

  5. #5

    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    Thanks for the help everyone. I'll definitely check out that bio ethanol

  6. #6

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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    In the US drinkable alcohol (ethanol or C2H6O) has a lot of taxes on it. If you want it for paint thinner or fuel they mix it with various poisons (toluene and or methanol C1H4O being typical) and can sell it w/o taxes and liquor licenses in hardware DIY stores. Ever clear or grain alcohol is around 190 proof or 85-95% ethanol, the rest being water. It is very difficult to remove the last few percent of water from ethanol made from biological sources---it co-distills as a tightly bound complex (azeotrope) so distillation won't do it. In the lab if we needed scrupulously water free ethanol we would boil it in a flask with a reflux condenser with magnesium chips in the flask. Then the flask would be allowed to cool using something to exclude regular moisture from the air (variety of techniques). I imagine there has be some kind of ultra high percentage ethanol for sale in Oz. If not read labels carefully. Methanol would be less trouble for wet plate, I think, than toluene. Toluene absorbs UV very well, it is also oily and has a relatively high boiling point so is hard to get rid of. Methanol does not.

  7. #7

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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    In some US states it seems difficult or impossible to get Everclear. Even when other (ahem) previously banned substances are legal. A bit ironic. The bioethanol seems like an intriguing work-around.

  8. #8

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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    Fr. Mark is right about the ethanol/water azeotrope, but industrially anhydrous ethanol is (or used to be) made by co-distillation with benzene. The details of physical chemistry are not important, but the fact that benzene was left in the product was a very good reason not to use the laboratory alcohol for the Christmas party punch. Over the years, many different denaturants have been used; my favorite was aviation gasoline... The law here requires that the denaturant make the alcohol "unfit" for human consumption, and not practially removable, the logic being that any particular denaturant might not be compatible with some legitimate technical use.

    If in Australia as in the U.S.A, beverage (i.e., safely drinkable) alcohol is regulated federally, it is likely to be quite expensive regardless of what it is sold for. If bioethanol sold for fuel is significantly cheaper than Everclear (sold in liquor stores, at least in Texas) then it is almost certainly denatured---and the nature of the denaturant may or may not affect the collodion process.

    Methanol may or may not be a suitable substitute; nitrocellulose is soluble in a mixture of (ethyl) ether and ethanol, but insoluble in either one alone. Not only is methanol more toxic than ethanol, but it may not work!

  9. #9

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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    If you want to drink lab ethanol get the USP stuff. Agreed.
    Don't forget that Methanol (MeOH) is motor fuel as is ethanol (EtOH) and that Ether is very flammable and explosive in a lot of air/fuel ratios. And nitrocellulose is a quite energetic material too.
    There are major solubility differences for different materials in EtOH v MeOH. Not sure how much MeOH is used as denaturant. It wouldn't take much to make the EtOH poisonous and that amount might not mess with photo chemistry. Or it might. Please let us know if you do the experiment.

  10. #10

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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion - Alcohol

    Industrial EtOH is also made by adding 1 water molecule to one ethylene molecule. If you get it exactly right, and I presume the Chem Engineers can, you get completely anhydrous EtOH which would be useful in making a lot of other chemicals.

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