Higher alkanes are alkanes having nine or more carbon atoms. Nonane is the lightest alkane to have a flash point above 25 °C, and so not to be classified as dangerously flammable.
The term higher alkanes is sometimes used literally as “alkanes with a higher number of carbon atoms”. One definition distinguishes the higher alkanes as the n-alkanes that are solid under natural conditions.[who?]
Alkanes from nonane to hexadecane (an alkane with sixteen carbon atoms) are liquids of higher viscosity, less and less suitable for use in gasoline. They form instead the major part of diesel and aviation fuel. Diesel fuels are characterised by their cetane number, cetane being an old name for hexadecane. However the higher melting points of these alkanes can cause problems at low temperatures and in polar regions, where the fuel becomes too thick to flow correctly. Mixtures of the normal alkanes are used as boiling point standards for simulated distillation by gas chromatography.
Alkanes from hexadecane upwards form the most important components of fuel oil and lubricating oil. In latter function they work at the same time as anti-corrosive agents, as their hydrophobic nature means that water cannot reach the metal surface. Many solid alkanes find use as paraffin wax, for example in candles. This should not be confused however with bees wax, which consists primarily of esters.
Alkanes with a chain length of approximately 35 or more carbon atoms are found in bitumen (asphalt), used for example in road surfacing. However, the higher alkanes have little value and are usually split into lower alkanes by cracking.