Paraffin wax was first discovered in 1830 by Carl von Reichenbach, a German chemist. He tried to produce a device that can be used to separate and purify the waxy substances that are naturally present in the oil. Meanwhile, he discovered paraffin.
Paraffin wax initially had a low melting point, but was later hardened by the addition of stearic acid, and this defect was overcome. Paraffin wax production enjoyed a boom in the early 20th century due to the growth of the meat and oil packaging industries, which created paraffin and stearic acid as byproducts.
Paraffin is extracted from oil or coal in the petrochemical industry. It is a saturated hydrocarbon compound in which all the carbon atoms in the molecule are connected with simple bonds, and kinds of paraffin or paraffinic hydrocarbons are also called alkanes.
In other words, the characteristic of these materials is the connection of carbon atoms by simple bonds, other bonds are saturated with hydrogen atoms.
Paraffin is a colourless, tasteless and odourless hydrocarbon compound that is a part of petroleum derivatives. The general public thinks that paraffin is only used in candle making, however, in fact, paraffin can be used in various industries.
In this article, we will define paraffin and its types and examine its uses in various fields.
Types of Paraffin
There are different classifications for paraffin, for example, in one of the categories, paraffin is divided into two groups: solid paraffin and liquid paraffin. In another category, according to the type of application, they are divided into three groups: industrial, food and health.
Most of this type of paraffin is used in candle making and leather making. The clearer and whiter the paraffin is, the higher the quality. The raw material used to produce solid paraffin is called Slack Wax, and solid paraffin is divided into several categories based on the amount of fat:
Crystal and micro crystal solid paraffin, solid paraffin 5.0 to 1% fat, solid paraffin 1 to 3% fat, solid paraffin 3 to 5% fat, solid paraffin 5 to 7% fat
- Macrocrystalline or light solid paraffin: This type of solid paraffin is less known and is known as crystal paraffin. This paraffin can have different oil percentages and the obtained paraffin is taken by sweating.
- Microcrystalline or heavy solid paraffin: More than 90% of solid kinds of paraffin in the market are of heavy and micro types, which can have different percentages of oil. The paraffin obtained is produced by the pressure of steel plates on bagged slack waxes at a certain temperature
The main export of solid paraffin is to African countries and Central Asian countries.
Liquid paraffin is colourless, odourless and tasteless, insoluble in water and alcohol, and soluble in natural solvents, and it is widely used in industries due to its high purity and stability. Liquid paraffin is divided into the following three grades:
- Grade A: Medicinal
- Grade B: Sanitary
- Grade C: Industrial
Examples that can be mentioned in the field of applications and consumption of this paraffin are: oiling in textiles, fruit and egg coating, cleaning cream, etc.
Industrial paraffin is produced in two ways: the acid method and the sweating method.
- Sweating method: In the Slack Wax Sweating method, after the initial moulding and oiling by sweating and purification with sulfuric acid, the next operation continues with the same acidic process (from the purification stage onwards).
- Acidic method: In the acidic method of slack wax, after re-melting and adding solvent-free acid in a cold form, impure paraffin is separated by a centrifuge.
After this process, the product is dried and purified with sulfuric acid. To remove the impurities, final purification is done by soil, and after filtration, they are moulded and finally packaged.
Chlorinated paraffin is widely used in the polymer industry, especially in PVC as a plasticizer, as a flame retardant for plastics and rubbers, and as a pour point depressant in paints.
Inside Iran, 52% chlorinated paraffin is applied as one of the most widely used grades in various industries, such as artificial leather and flooring, etc.
By hydrogenating aromatics, cyclic paraffin is formed. By hydrogenating gasoline, cyclohexane is formed. The main component of gaseous hydrocarbons is paraffin. Paraffin is found in gasoline and kerosene in abundance. Waxes are hydrocarbons obtained from crude oil.
Slack Wax Material
This material consists of wax and oil, which is considered a by-product of motor oil refineries and is the primary material of paraffin.
Slack wax enters the production process under the name of feed, and after oiling and decolourization, it turns into paraffin wax. The oil obtained in this process becomes another product called Fots Oil, which has many industrial uses.
Applications of Paraffin
1. Application in candle making
The presence of this substance in the candle causes the candle to burn more slowly and the candle will have fewer tears. On the other hand, it is affordable and its production will be cheaper than other candles.
2. Application in the cosmetics industry
- This material is used in making eyebrow pencils and coloured pencils.
- This material will have beauty and therapeutic purposes.
- It is used as a moisturizer in cosmetics such as Vaseline.
- It is used in making all kinds of softening creams.
3. Application of industrial paraffin
Industrial types are defined in the form of materials called lubricants. Lubricants are substances that are used to reduce friction between surfaces. The application of this type of material will make the movement of moving surfaces on each other simpler and smoother than normal. The mixture of this substance and the micro waxes used in rubber compounds will prevent the rubber from cracking.
4. Application of edible paraffin in the food industry
- Glossy coatings in the candy industry are of the edible grade of this material. Although this type is edible, it is indigestible but excretable. One of the advantages of using it is that it facilitates the act of elimination.
- It is used for covering different types of hard cheeses.
- It is used as a sealant in many cans and bottles.
- It is used as a supplement in the production of chewing gum.
- This substance is known as a food additive with the number E905.
- This substance is completely purified in the form of edible liquid and all toxic and polluting substances have been removed from them.
How to detect paraffin
Many things can be taken into account when buying paraffin. first of all, the use of paraffin should be determined. Because the quality of paraffin in any industry is determined specified by its use of paraffin in it, for example, in the candle-making industry, paraffin with a lower percentage of high-quality oil is considered more, but this problem is the opposite in the lubrication industry.
In general, paraffin with a whiter colour has a higher quality than milky and pale paraffin, and also having crystal grains in the middle layers of paraffin can ensure high-quality solid paraffin.
- Store in a dry and cool place.
- Keep away materials that cause heat in the storage area of these compounds.
- Use a suitable ventilation system for the storage area.
- Be sure to take precautions when transporting.
- Store at a temperature below 25 degrees Celsius.
- Use nitrile, PVC or neoprene gloves for long-term hand contact.
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