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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