Paraffin wax refers to a white or colourless soft solid that is used as a lubricant and for other applications. It is derived from petroleum and consists of a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules containing between twenty and forty carbon atoms. It is solid at room temperature and begins to melt above approximately 37 °C (99 °F), its boiling point is >370 deg C. . In chemistry, paraffin is used synonymously with "alkane", indicating hydrocarbons with the general formula CnH2n+2. The name is derived from Latin parum ("barely") + affinis, meaning "lacking affinity" or "lacking reactivity" indicating paraffin's unreactive nature.
Paraffin wax is mostly found as a white, odorless, tasteless, waxy solid, with a typical melting point between about 46 and 68 °C (115 and 154 °F), and having a density of around 900 kg/m3. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in ether, benzene, and certain esters. Paraffin is unaffected by most common chemical reagents but burns readily.
Paraffin wax is an excellent electrical insulator, with an electrical resistivity of between 1013 and 1017 ohm metre. This is better than nearly all other materials except some plastics (notably Teflon). It is an effective neutron moderator and was used in James Chadwick's 1932 experiments to identify the neutron.
Paraffin wax is an excellent material to store heat, having a specific heat capacity of 2.14–2.9 J g−1 K−1 (joule per gram kelvin) and a heat of fusion of 200–220 J g−1. This property is exploited in modified drywall for home building material: a certain type (with the right melting point) of wax is infused in the drywall during manufacture so that, when installed, it melts during the day, absorbing heat, and solidifies again at night, releasing the heat. Paraffin wax phase change cooling coupled with retractable radiators was used to cool the electronics of the Lunar Rover. Wax expands considerably when it melts and this allows its use in wax thermostatic elementthermostats for industrial, domestic and, particularly, automobile purposes.
The feedstock for paraffin is slack wax. Slack wax is a mixture of oil and wax, a byproduct from the refining of lubricating oil.
The first step in making paraffin wax is to remove the oil (de-oiling or de-waxing) from the slack wax. The oil is separated through crystallization. Most commonly, the slack wax is heated, mixed with one or more solvents such as a ketone and then cooled. As it is cooled, wax crystallizes out leaving oil in solution. This mixture is filtered into two streams: solid (wax plus some solvent) and liquid (oil and solvent). After the solvent is recovered by distillation, the resulting products are called "product wax" (or "press wax") and "foots oil". The lower the percentage of oil in the wax the more refined it is considered (semi-refined versus fully refined). The product wax may be further processed to remove colors and odors. The wax may finally be blended together to give certain desired properties such as melt point and penetration. Paraffin wax is sold in either liquid or solid form.
Applications of paraffin wax 
In industrial applications, it is often useful to modify the crystal properties of the paraffin wax, typically by adding branching to the existing carbon backbone chain. The modification is usually done with additives, such as EVA copolymers, microcrystalline wax, or forms of polyethylene. The branched properties result in a modified paraffin with a higher viscosity, smaller crystalline structure, and modified functional properties. Pure paraffin wax is rarely used for carving original models for casting metal and other materials in the lost wax process, as it is relatively brittle at room temperature and presents the risks of chipping and breakage when worked. Soft and pliable waxes, like beeswax, may be preferred for such sculpture, but "investment casting waxes," often paraffin-based, are expressly formulated for the purpose.
Other uses 
- Coatings for waxed paper or cloth
- Food-grade paraffin wax:
- Investment casting
- Anti-caking agent, moisture repellent, and dustbinding coatings for fertilizers
- Agent for preparation of specimens for histology
- Bullet lubricant – with other ingredients, such as olive oil and beeswax
- Phlegmatizing agent, commonly used to stabilise/desensitize high explosives such as RDX
- Solid propellant for hybrid rocket motors
- Component of surfwax, used for grip on surfboards in surfing
- Component of glide wax, used on skis and snowboards
- Friction-reducer, for use on handrails and cement ledges, commonly used in skateboarding
- Ink. Used as the basis for solid ink different color blocks of wax for thermal printers. The wax is melted and then sprayed on the paper producing images with a shiny surface
- Microwax: food additive, a glazing agent with E number E905
- Forensic investigations: the nitrate test uses paraffin wax to detect nitrates and nitrites on the hand of a shooting suspect
- Antiozonant agents: blends of paraffin and micro waxes are used in rubber compounds to prevent cracking of the rubber; the admixture of wax migrates to the surface of the product and forms a protective layer. The layer can also act as a release agent, helping the product separate from its mould.
- Mechanical thermostats and actuators, as an expansion medium for activating such devices
- "Potting" guitar pickups, which reduces microphonic feedback caused from the subtle movements of the pole pieces
- "Potting" of local oscillator coils to prevent microphonic frequency modulation in low end FM radios.
- Wax baths for beauty and therapy purposes
- Thickening agent in many Paintballs, as used by Crayola
- An effective, although comedogenic, moisturiser in toiletries and cosmetics such as Vaseline
- Prevents oxidation on the surface of polished steel and iron
- Phase change medium for thermal energy storage
- Manufacture of boiled leather armor and books
See also 
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- "Paraffin, n". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. March 2009.
- Nasser, William E (1999). "Waxes, Natural and Synthetic". In McKetta, John J. Encyclopedia of Chemical Processing and Design 67. New York: Marcel Dekker. p. 17. ISBN 0-8247-2618-9. This can vary widely, even outside the quoted range, according to such factors as oil content and crystalline structure.
- Kaye, George William Clarkson; Laby,Thomas Howell. "Mechanical properties of materials". Kaye and Laby Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants. National Physical Laboratory. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
- Seager, Spencer L.; Slabaugh, Michael. "Alkane reactions". Chemistry for Today: General, Organic, and Biochemistry. Belmont, CA: Cengage. p. 364. ISBN 978-0-538-73332-8.
- "Electrical insulating materials". Kaye and Laby Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants. National Physical Laboratory. 1995. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
- "Attenuation of fast neutrons: neutron moderation and diffusion". Kaye and Laby Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants. National Physical Laboratory. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
- Rhodes, Richard (1986). The Making of the Atomic Bomb. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 163. ISBN 0-671-44133-7.
- "Specific Heat Capacity". Diracdelta.co.uk Science and Engineering Encyclopedia. Dirac Delta Consultants Ltd, Warwick, England. Retrieved 2007-08-18.
- "Micronal PCM SmartBoard".
- Dean, W. G.; Karu; Karu, Z. S. (February 1993). "Space Station thermal storage/refrigeration system research and development". Final Report Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. (NASA). Bibcode:1993lock.rept.....D. More than one of
- Wax-pellet thermostat United States Patent 4948043
- Bodén, Roger. "Paraffin Microactuator". Materials Science Sensors and Actuators. University of Uppsala. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
- "Paraffin Wax (Fully Refined)". Barasat Wax Refiner. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- "Wax Refining". The International Group, Inc. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- "Paraffin wax". Bitumen Engineering. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- "Manufacturing Process". Barasat Wax Refiner. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- Staff (Fall 2004). "Rocket motor uses common household product for fuel". OASIS Ocean Air Space Industry Site (Stennis Space Center Pearlington, MS: NASA) 1 (3): 6. Retrieved 28 November 2008.
- (Freund & Mózes 1982, p. 272)
- Dick, William B (1872). "Encyclopedia Of Practical Receipts And Processes". New York: Dick and Fitzgerald. Retrieved 2013-01-23.