Paraffin wax

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OTC paraffin wax, with a melting point of 54 °C.

Paraffin wax is a white to colorless soft solid, derivable from petroleum, coal or oil shale, with a variety of uses.

In chemistry the term paraffin is sometimes 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", referring to paraffin's unreactive nature.

Properties

Chemical

Paraffin wax consists of a mixture of hydrocarbons, mostly alkanes, containing between twenty and forty carbon atoms. One important alkane is hentriacontane (C31H64).

Paraffin wax reacts with elemental sulfur to release hydrogen sulfide.

Paraffin wax burns when heated to high temperatures in the presence of air, generating lots of smoke and soot.

Physical

Paraffin wax is a white soft solid, insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents, such as benzene, chloroform, diethyl ether, as well as several esters. Paraffin wax is an excellent electrical insulator, with an electrical resistivity between 1013-1017 Ω⋅m, slightly below teflon. Paraffin wax melts between 40-70 °C depending on the composition and has an average density of 0.9 g/cm3.

Availability

Paraffin wax is sold by various candle shops. It can also be purchased from various hobby and art stores.

Production

Paraffin wax is best purchased than made.

Projects

  • Wax sculpting
  • Metal casting
  • Heating bath (though it's messy)
  • Electric insulation
  • Make candles
  • Bottle sealing
  • Phlegmatizing agent
  • Solid rocket propellant

Handling

Safety

Paraffin wax poses little toxicity, though it is generally not edible. Ingestion may lead to diarrhea or vomiting.

Storage

In closed boxes, at low temperatures. During summers it should be kept in a cool place, like a fridge or basement.

Disposal

Paraffin wax can be dumped in trash or burned.

See also

References

Relevant Sciencemadness threads