Paraffin is a common name for a group of high molecular weight alkane hydrocarbons discovered by carl reichenbach. Paraffin (latin parum (=barely) + affinis with the meaning here of "lacking affinity" or "lacking reactivity") It is generally found in white, odorless, tasteless, waxy solid with a typical melting point between 47 c and 65 c. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in ether, benzene, and certain esters. Paraffin is unaffected by most common chemical reagents. But burns readily.
Wax research was established as a scientific discipline in 1823. It became part of new research area of soaps, oils, fats, and waxes. The real breakthrough of wax as an important raw material, in terms of quantity as well, occured at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Ozcerite (fossil wax) was mined and refined to give ceresin (1875), montan wax was obtained from eocene lignite (1897)
In 1935 the first fully synthetic waxes are produced by the fischer-tropsch process. Polyethylene wax has been synthesized by the high pressure process since 1939, and became available by the low-pressure ziegler process after 1953. On a laboratory scale polyolefin waxes can also be synthesized by using modern metallocene catalysts.
Typically waxes do not consist of a single chemical compound, but are often very complex mixtures. Being oligomers or polymers in many cases, the components differ in their molar mass, molar mass distribution, or in the degree of side-chain branching. Fuctional groups (e.g., carboxyl, alcohol, ester, keto, and amide groups) can be detected in waxes, sometimes several different groups.
The academic definition still quoted in chemistry text books- that waxes are esters of long-chain carboxylic acids with long-chain alcohols- is no longer useful. It applies fairly well only to some classical waxes such as beeswax, others (e.g., petroleum waxes) do not fall in this category.
-coating for waxed paper or cloth
-coating for many kinds of hard cheese, like edam cheese
-as anticaking-, moisture repellent- and dustbinding coatings for fertilizers
-preparing specimens for histology
-solid propellant for hybrid rockets
-sealing jars, cans, and bottles
-in dermatology, as an emollient (moisturiser)
-surfing, for grip on surfboards as a component of surfwax
-the primary component of glide wax, used on skis and snowboards
-as a food additive, a glazing agent with a number e905
-the paraffin test is used in forensics to detect granules of gunpowder in the hand of a shooting suspect
Food-grade paraffin wax is used in some candies to make them look shiny. Although edible, it is nondigestible; it passes right through the body without being broken down. Non-food grade paraffin wax can contain oils and other impurities which may be toxic or harmful.