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CAS number 12441-09-7
PubChem 103023
Jmol-3D images Image 1
Molecular formula C6H12O5
Molar mass 164.16 g/mol
Appearance colourless solid
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
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Infobox references

Sorbitan is a mixture of isomeric organic compounds derived from the dehydration of sorbitol. The mixture can vary, but usually consists of 1,4-anhydrosorbitol, 1,5-anhydrosorbitol and 1,4,3,6-dianhydrosorbitol.[1] Sorbitan is primarily used in the production of surfactants such as polysorbates. Sorbitan is an intermediate in the conversion of sorbitol to isosorbide.[2]

Sorbitan esters (also known as Spans) are lipophilic nonionic surfactants that are used as emulsifying agents in the preparation of emulsions, creams, and ointments for pharmaceutical and cosmetic use. When used alone they produce stable water-in-oil emulsions but they are frequently used with a polysorbate in varying proportions to produce water-in-oil or oil-in-water emulsions or creams with a variety of different textures and consistencies. Sorbitan esters are also used as emulsifiers and stabilisers in food.[3]


  1. ^ Merck Index, 12th Edition, 8872
  2. ^ Rose, Marcus; Palkovits, Regina (2012). "Isosorbide as a Renewable Platform chemical for Versatile Applications-Quo Vadis?". ChemSusChem 5 (1): 167–76. doi:10.1002/cssc.201100580. PMID 22213713. 
  3. ^ Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference. The Pharmaceutical Press. 2005.