Fatty alcohols (EU) are an important class of materials used in numerous types of personal care products. Get familiar with their many uses, characteristics and product resources below.
Typical uses include:
- Thickening anhydrous products like antiperspirant sticks
- Thickening oil in water emulsions via the formation of lamellar crystalline gel networks
- As emollients to modify skin feel
- As solvents (liquid branched type)
They are chemicals characterized as having a free primary, secondary, or tertiary hydroxyl group attached to a long chain group. Fatty alcohols are usually long chain primary alcohols, but they can also range from as few as 4-6 carbons to as many as 22-26 carbons. They can also be unsaturated and have methyl branching.
These chemicals occur widely in nature in plants/animals and normally are straight chain, even in carbon length. They are produced by transesterifying triglycerides (EU) with methanol followed by hydrogenating the resulting esters to the alcohol.
Fatty alcohols are also prepared synthetically. In the Ziegler process, ethylene is oligomerized using triethylaluminium followed by air oxidation. This process creates even-numbered alcohols. Alternatively, ethylene can be oligomerized to give mixtures of alkenes, which are subjected to hydroformylation. This process creates odd-numbered aldehydes, which are subsequently hydrogenated. For example, from 1-decene, hydroformylation gives the C11 alcohol.
In the Shell higher olefin process, the chain-length distribution in the initial mixture of alkene oligomers is adjusted so as to more closely match market demand. Shell does this using an intermediate metathesis reaction. The resultant mixture is fractionated and hydroformylated/hydrogenated in a subsequent step.
Guerbet alcohols are branched alcohols produced by the condensation of primary alcohols at temperatures of 180 – 300°C in the presence of alkaline condensing agents. They are normally liquid alcohols.
- Procter and Gamble – C8-18 alcohols under the CO designation.
- BASF (Cognis) – C12-22 alcohols under the Lanette trademark.
EU: BASF | Lanette
- Sasol – C12-22 alcohols under the Nacol trademark.
EU: Sasol | Nacol
Synthetic straight chain:
Branched (Guerbet type)
Dr. Z Presents All about fatty alcohols (copyright 2000-Condea)
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9 Responses to “Fatty Alcohol Basics”
Hi, could you let me know what plants are usually used to make those fatty alcohols?
Manufacturers say only it’s ‘vegetable sources’
I’d like to know which plants are mostly used and if animal sources are still used.
The most common vegetable sources for fatty alcohols are Palm and Coconut oils. Canola is used if C22 alcohol is desired or low Erucic Canola for Oleyl alcohol. Isostearyl alcohol is naturally derived from pine oil. Tallow is not used much any more to produce fatty alcohols for personal care applications.
While Palm Oil is certainly used as afeedstock for C16/C18 alcohols, the most common feedstocks for natural fatty are Palm Kernel Oil and Coconut Oil which are both “Lauric” oils.
As the information is up to date about fatty alcohols, I will improve on these comments about methods to manufacture fatty alcohols from natural oils.
VVF has established a state-of-the-art fatty alcohol production facility in Taloja, India, strategically located near two major ports in Mumbai. The facility produces high quality fatty alcohols incorporating Lurgi’s latest Wax Ester technology to make natural saturated fatty alcohols from Palm and Rapeseed oil under the registered trade name Vegarol®. These products are not made using methyl ester process and therefore are free of residual solvents including methanol.
The facility manufactures fatty alcohols, including mid-cut alcohols such as Lauryl / Myristyl, to long chains such as Cetyl, Stearyl, Cetostearyl, and Behenyl.
I’m interested in synthetic alkohols C16C18. I have problem with viscosity of emulsion based on natural alkohols – which is not stable during time. I suspect that synthetic alcohols are easier to emulsify and I’ll get low viscosity 30% emulsion. What do you think about it.
The natural alcohols are not causing your problem. A buildup in viscosity using fatty alcohols is normally caused by the presence of fatty alcohol crystals being converted to additional lamellar phase over time. This problem can be due to improper processing or not enough emulsifier present.
I am doing my project work on Fatty Alcohols using coconut fatty acid as feedstock. There are two methods in the manufacture of Fatty Alcohols: direct hydrogenation and lurgi wax ester technology. I have some queries related to it and I hope you will help me.
1) In direct hydrogenation method, fatty alcohols are treated directly with hydrogen or first with methanol and then hydrogenation. Please suggest.
2) In lurgi wax ester method, other the desired fatty alcohol (C12-C14), Is there any desired product? Please suggest.
Your reply will be very valuable to me.
I am working on a project on c8, c10 and c8-c10 fatty alcohols. Based on my study i found that these can be manufacture from natural source as well as synthetic sources.
Natural sources-Palm oil, Palm kernel oil, coconut oil
Synthetics sources- olefins and paraffins
Is my research correct ?
Can you please provide me the details manufacturing process with both the sources.
Any inputs from your end are very valuable.
Interesting to have such information