|Jmol-3D images||Image 1|
|Molar mass||284.48 g mol−1|
|Density||0.847 g/cm3 at 70 °C|
69.6 °C, 343 K, 157 °F
383 °C, 656 K, 721 °F
|Solubility in water||3 mg/L (20 °C)|
|Refractive index (nD)||1.4299|
|Specific heat capacity, C||501.5 J mol−1 K−1|
| (what is: / ?)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Stearic acid (STAIR-ik or STEER-ik) is the saturated fatty acid with an 18-carbon chain and has the IUPAC name octadecanoic acid. It is a waxy solid, and its chemical formula is CH3(CH2)16CO2H. Its name comes from the Greek word στέαρ "stéar", which means tallow. The salts and esters of stearic acid are called stearates. Stearic acid is one of the most common saturated fatty acids found in nature following palmitic acid.
It occurs in many animal and vegetable fats and oils, but it is more abundant in animal fat (up to 30%) than vegetable fat (typically <5%). The important exceptions are cocoa butter and shea butter, where the stearic acid content (as a triglyceride) is 28–45%.
Stearic acid is prepared by treating these fats and oils with water at a high pressure and temperature (above 200 °C), leading to the hydrolysis of triglycerides. The resulting mixture is then distilled. Commercial stearic acid is often a mixture of stearic and palmitic acids, although purified stearic acid is available.
In general, 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 stearyl alcohol, and esterification with a range of alcohols.
Soaps, cosmetics, detergents
Stearic acid is mainly used in the production of detergents, soaps, and cosmetics such as shampoos and shaving cream products. Soaps are not made directly from stearic acid, but indirectly by saponification of triglycerides consisting of stearic acid esters. Esters of stearic acid with ethylene glycol; glycol stearate and glycol distearate, 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. Lithium stearate is an important component of grease. The stearate salts of zinc, calcium, cadmium, and lead are used to soften PVC. 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 release agents, 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 piece mold or waste mold 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 calcium stearate, which functions as a release agent. When reacted with zinc it forms zinc stearate, which is used a lubricant for playing cards (fanning powder) to ensure a smooth motion when fanning. In compressed confections, it is used as a lubricant to keep the tablet from sticking to the die.
Stearic acid is used to produce dietary supplements.
An isotope labeling study in humans concluded that the fraction of dietary stearic acid that oxidatively desaturates to oleic acid is 2.4 times higher than the fraction of palmitic acid analogously converted to palmitoleic acid. Also, stearic acid is less likely to be incorporated into cholesterol esters. In epidemiologic and clinical studies, stearic acid was found to be associated with lowered LDL cholesterol in comparison with other saturated fatty acids. These findings may indicate that stearic acid is healthier than other saturated fatty acids.
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