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In general, the applications of stearic acid exploit its bifunctional character, with a polar head group that can be attached to metal cations and a nonpolar chain that confers solubility in organic solvents. The combination leads to uses as a surfactant and softening agent. Stearic acid undergoes the typical reactions of saturated carboxylic acids, a notable one being reduction to
, and esterification with a range of alcohols. This is used in a large range of manufactures, from simple to complex electronic devices.
Soaps, cosmetics, detergents
Stearic acid is mainly used in the production of detergents, soaps, and cosmetics such as
products. Soaps are not made directly from stearic acid, but indirectly by
of triglycerides consisting of stearic acid esters.
of stearic acid with
are used to produce a pearly effect in shampoos, soaps, and other cosmetic products. They are added to the product in molten form and allowed to crystallize under controlled conditions. Detergents are obtained from amides and quaternary alkylammonium derivatives of stearic acid.
Lubricants, softening and release agents
In view of the soft texture of the sodium salt, which is the main component of soap, other salts are also useful for their lubricating properties.
is an important component of
. The stearate salts of zinc, calcium, cadmium, and lead are used to soften
. Stearic acid is used along with castor oil for preparing softeners in textile sizing. They are heated and mixed with caustic potash or caustic soda. Related salts are also commonly used as
, e.g. in the production of automobile tires.
Being inexpensively available and chemically benign, stearic acid finds many niche applications, for example, in making plaster castings from a plaster
and in making the mold from a shellacked clay original. In this use, powdered stearic acid is mixed in water and the suspension is brushed onto the surface to be parted after casting. This reacts with the calcium in the plaster to form a thin layer of
, which functions as a release agent. When reacted with
, which is used as a lubricant for playing cards (
) to ensure a smooth motion when
, it is used as a lubricant to keep the tablet from sticking to the die.
Stearic acid is also used as a negative plate additive in the manufacture of lead-acid batteries. It is added at the rate of 0.6 g per kg of the oxide while preparing the paste.
It is believed to enhance the hydrophobicity of the negative plate, particularly during dry-charging process. It also reduces the extension of oxidation of the freshly formed lead (negative active material) when the plates are kept for drying in the open atmosphere after the process of tank formation. As a consequence, the charging time of a dry uncharged battery during initial filling and charging (IFC) is comparatively lower, as compared to a battery assembled with plates which do not contain stearic acid additive.
Fatty acids are classic components of
-making. Stearic acid is used along with simple
as a hardener in
Stearic acid is used to produce
, stearic acid is often used to coat
powders such as
. This prevents
, allowing compositions to be stored for a longer period of time.
Stearic acid is a common lubricant during
and pressing of
.It is also used as a mold release for
that is baked in stone molds.
study in humans concluded that the fraction of dietary stearic acid that
is 2.4 times higher than the fraction of
analogously converted to
. Also, stearic acid is less likely to be incorporated into
. In epidemiologic and clinical studies, stearic acid was found to be associated with lowered
in comparison with other saturated fatty acids.
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