Fatty alcohols are lipid small molecules that consist of a terminal hydroxyl group and a long carbon chain. They are the reduced forms of fatty acids.
Fatty alcohols are similar to fatty acids in exhibiting amphiphilic properties and in the chemical and physical properties of the hydrophobic portion of the molecule, but with a nonionizable polar group. Fatty alcohols may be produced directly through hydrogenation of fatty acids. However, the more common route of synthesis is through hydrogenation of methyl esters of fatty acids.
Figure 1. Synthesis route of fatty alcohol
Fatty alcohols occur as primary or secondary alcohols containing alkyl chains with unsaturated bonds or methyl branching groups. The physical form of fatty alcohols is highly dependent on the chain length, amount of unsaturation and methyl branching.
Fatty alcohols are mainly used in the production of detergents and surfactants. They are components also of cosmetics, foods, and as industrial solvents. Due to their amphipathic nature, fatty alcohols behave as nonionic surfactants. They find use as co-emulsifiers, emollients and thickeners in cosmetics and food industry. About 50% of fatty alcohols used commercially are of natural origin, the remainder being synthetic.
Figure 2. Applications of fatty alcohols
Alfa Chemistry offers a variety of fatty alcohols for customers to choose from.