The compound is a saturated long-chain fatty acid. It is one with 18-carbon backbone and is a major component of shea butter and cocoa butter. The compound is also known as stearate, octadecanoic acid, stearophanic acid, n-Octadecanoic acid and stearic acid-triple pressed just to mention a few. It appears as a white or slightly yellow solid with a mild odour and tastes like tallow. The compound floats on water and has a boiling point of approximately 383 degrees Celsius and a melting point of 68.8-72 degrees Celsius. Its solubility in water is low.
The compound is divided into two types based on its source: vegetable and animal-based types. Per the manufacturing process or degree of purity, it can be divided into three types: one, double, and triple-pressed stearic acid.
The purest type of the compound is triple-pressed stearic acid. It is mostly sourced from vegetable oils and is applied in cosmetics, foods and pharmaceuticals. Double-pressed stearic acid is a commercial grade of stearic acid which is less refined and has an iodine value which is comparatively very high as compared to that of triple-pressed stearic acid. Both double and triple-pressed stearic acid occurs as white waxy solids. On the contrary, one-pressed stearic acid is a pale yellow waxy solid. It mainly has industrial applications which include: as a stabilizer in plastics, as a water repellent and brightener in a paper, as a softener and waterproofing agent in textile, and as a vulcanization agent in rubber just to mention a few.
Some of the application areas of stearic acid include but are not limited to:
- It is used as a flavouring agent in foods.
- It is used as an emulsion stabilizing agent.
- It is used in ointments and for coating bitter remedies.
- It is used as a suppository.
- It is used in the production of stearates such as those for aluminium and zinc.
- It is used as a softener and dispersing agent in rubber compounds.
- It is used as an additive in lubricants.
- It is used as a superfatting agent in cosmetics.
- It is used as a corrosion inhibitor.
- It is used a chemical intermediary in metallic soaps and greases.
- It is used in the production of household soap products.
- It is used as a component in the manufacture of pharmaceutical creams.
- It is used as a lubricant in pharmaceutical tablet formulations.
- It is used as a release agent in baked goods and confectioneries.