Stearic acid is a waxy solid saturated fatty acid occurring in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, in the milk of several mammals and in other animal fats. Commercial stearic acid is a mixture of approximately equal amounts of stearic and palmitic acids and small amounts of oleic acid. It is mainly used in the manufacturing of detergents, cosmetics including shampoos and shaving products and soaps. Esters of stearic acid with ethylene glycol and glycol distearate are majorly used to develop the pearly effect in shampoos, cosmetic products and soaps among others. In addition, detergents are manufactured from quaternary alkylammonium derivatives of stearic acid.
Stearic acid is used in lubricants, release agents and softening agents. For instance, lithium stearate is a key component of grease. It is used as a softening agent in castor oil for textile sizing. Stearte salts such as calcium, cadmium, lead and zinc among others are used for softening PVC and as release agents in the production of automobile tires. It has applications in niche segments such as making plaster castings from a plaster piece mold in which stearic acid is mixed in water. In addition, stearic acid is used in the manufacture of lead acid batteries as a negative plate additive. Moreover, it is used as a hardner in candies and for manufacturing dietary supplements. Furthermore, stearic acid is used as a lubricant in injection molding.
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The demand for stearic acid has experienced a continuous rise in the past few years and this trend is expected to continue in the next few years as well. The major reason for this is the diverse range of application products that can be produced from stearic acid. The application products of stearic acid mainly include cleaners, detergents, lubricants, hardener for candies and production of plasticizer alcohols among others. Owing to such a wide range of applications, stearic acid is widely used in several end-user industries. The growing demand for these application products from automotive, plastics, oil and gas and paints and coatings industries is anticipated to drive the demand for stearic acid in the next few years.
However, use of stearic acid in higher concentration leads to cancer in humans and mammals. Magnesium stearate in large doses causes liver toxicity and damage to skin. This is expected to hamper the demand and thereby, hamper the growth of the market. Despite of all these claims, stearic acid is considered as a mild and safe ingredient. Some of the key players in the stearic acid market are the Chemical Company, P&G Chemicals and VVF LLC among others. There are other small players involved in the manufacturing of stearic acid spread across various geographies.
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