Beeswax (White & Yellow
Waxes are organic compounds that characteristically consist of long alkyl chains. Natural waxes are typically esters of fatty acids and long chain alcohols. Synthetic waxes are long-chain hydrocarbons lacking functional groups.
Plant and animal waxes
Waxes are bio-synthesized by many plants and animals. They typically consist of several components, including wax esters, wax acids, wax alcohols, and hydrocarbons. Wax esters are typically derived from a variety of carboxylic acids and a variety of fatty alcohols. The composition depends not only on species, but also on geographic location of the organism. Because they are mixtures, naturally produced waxes are softer and melt at lower temperatures than the pure components.
The most commonly known animal wax is beeswax, but other insects secrete waxes. A major component of beeswax is the ester myricyl palmitate substance which is used in constructing their honeycombs. Its melting point is 62-65 °C. Spermaceti occurs in large amounts in the head oil of the sperm whale. One of its main constituents is cetyl palmitate, another ester of a fatty acid and a fatty alcohol. Lanolin is a wax obtained from wool, consisting of esters of sterols.
Especially in warm climates, plants secrete waxes as a way to control evaporation and hydration.From the commercial perspective, the most important wax is Carnauba wax, a hard wax obtained from the Brazilian palm. Containing the ester myricyl cerotate, it has many applications. Other more specialized vegetable waxes include candelilla wax, ouricury wax, sugarcane wax, retamo wax, jojoba oil. The epicuticular waxes of plants are mixtures of substituted long-chain aliphatic hydrocarbons, containing alkanes, fatty acids, primary and secondary alcohols, diols, ketones, aldehydes.
Petroleum derived waxes
Although most natural waxes are esters, paraffin waxes are hydrocarbons, mixtures of alkanes usually in a homologous series of chain lengths. These materials represent a significant fraction of petroleum. They are refined by vacuum distillation. Paraffin waxes are mixtures of saturated n- and isoalkanes, naphthenes, and alkyl- and substituted aromatic compounds. The degree of branching has an important influence on the properties. Millions of tons of paraffin waxes are produced annually. They are used in adhesives, in foods (such as chewing gum and cheese wrapping), in cosmetics, and as coatings.
Montan wax is a fossilized wax extracted from coal and lignite. It is very hard, reflecting the high concentration of saturated fatty acids and alcohols, not esters that characterize softer waxes. Although dark brown and smelly, they can be purified and bleached to give commercially useful products.
Polyethylene and related derivatives
Some waxes are obtained by cracking polyethylene at 400 °C. The products have the formula (CH2)nH2, where n ranges between about 50 and 100. As of 1995, about 200 million kilograms/y were consumed.Wax refers to a class of chemical compounds that are plastic (malleable) near ambient temperatures. Characteristically, they melt above 45 °C (113 °F) to give a low viscosity liquid. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, non-polar solvents. All waxes are organic compounds, both synthetic and naturally occurring.