Paraffin is a waxy substance that is derived from petroleum or coal. It is a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules, primarily consisting of long-chain alkanes.
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The history of paraffin:
Paraffin, also known as paraffin wax, has a long and interesting history that dates back several centuries. Here is a brief overview of the history of paraffin:
The use of waxes for various purposes can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Egyptians used beeswax for embalming and creating candles, while the Romans used animal fats to make candles.
Discovery of Paraffin:
The discovery of paraffin wax can be attributed to Carl Reichenbach, a German chemist, in the early 19th century. In 1830, Reichenbach extracted a waxy substance from coal tar and named it "paraffin" .
The industrial production of paraffin wax began in the mid-19th century when James Young, a Scottish chemist, developed a method to extract paraffin oil from coal shale. This process involved distilling coal tar and refining it to obtain various by-products including paraffin wax.
Paraffin wax gained popularity as an alternative to traditional materials like tallow and beeswax for candle making during the 19th century. It offered several advantages such as cleaner burning, longer-lasting candles, and easier availability.
Expansion of Uses:
As the production methods improved and became more efficient, paraffin wax found its way into various industries. It was used for waterproofing fabrics, making crayons, sealing jars and bottles, coating paper products, as an ingredient in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and even for making models in dentistry.
In recent years, paraffin wax has found new applications beyond traditional uses. It is commonly used in spa treatments like paraffin baths for moisturizing skin and soothing joint pain. Paraffin wax is also used in the food industry for coating fruits and vegetables to extend their shelf life.
While paraffin wax has been widely used for its versatility and affordability, there are growing concerns about its environmental impact. Paraffin is derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and its production and combustion contribute to carbon emissions.
Despite these concerns, paraffin wax continues to be a widely used material due to its low cost, versatility, and availability. Efforts are being made to develop more sustainable alternatives such as soy wax or beeswax for various applications.